WELLINGTON • Australia's aim of regaining the top ranking in Test cricket has taken a major step forward following yesterday's comprehensive victory over New Zealand in the opener of their two-match series, according to captain Steve Smith.
Australia thumped the hosts by an innings and 52 runs at the Basin Reserve shortly after lunch on the fourth day to put themselves in prime position to usurp India at the head of the International Cricket Council Test rankings.
The triumph means Smith's side can afford to draw the second Test starting in Christchurch on Saturday as any series victory, whether it be by a 1-0 or 2-0 margin, will take Australia past India.
"We want to be No. 1 in the world in all three formats and I think this Test match is a step in the right direction," he said. "I said when I took over as captain that I wanted to win every series away from home."
Smith felt his team had put in a complete performance against Brendon McCullum's side, exploiting the green wicket on the first day to bowl out New Zealand for 183, then building a patient innings when they batted to ensure they wore down the home attack as conditions improved to score 562 and restrict their opponents to 327 in the second innings.
McCullum also praised Australia's bowlers for their efforts on the first morning and for their ability to eke out some reverse swing when New Zealand batted a second time.
"When you know you've got favourable conditions it's not always easy to execute as well as they did for as long as they did," he said.
"In the second innings they identified pretty quickly the ball wasn't swinging conventionally. Once the ball is reverse swinging, its another thing to apply pressure and execute it and they did that outstandingly well."
Smith was keen for his side to build on their win, with pace bowler James Pattinson likely to come back into contention, while seamer Peter Siddle would need tests on a back spasm.
"We have played some very good Test cricket over the last couple of months," Smith said, referring to series wins over New Zealand and West Indies. "It has been really satisfying and there is a lot of improvement left in us, we're going in the right direction."
Australia top the one-day international rankings, are second on the Test list but eighth on the T20 table ahead of next month's World Twenty20 in India.