Cricket-Guptill heeds warning and delivers with century

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Dec 10 (Reuters) - Martin Guptill had been warned. He needed to perform against Sri Lanka after a less than convincing performance against Australia last month. On Thursday at the picturesque University Oval in Dunedin, the 29-year-old delivered as he ended a four-year spell without a test century by reaching the mark before tea on the first day of the opening match against Sri Lanka. It was his first century against one of the other major test nations and only third overall in a 37-match career. His others had come against Bangladesh (189) and Zimbabwe (109). Guptill, who could have been given out leg before wicket to Dushmantha Chameera on 78 had the Sri Lankans reviewed the not out decision, brought up the milestone with a cover drive off Suranga Lakmal for his 17th boundary to move to 103. The innings was full of strong punches down the ground and also brought up 2,000 career runs for the tall right hander. While the inexperienced Sri Lankan attack was not as penetrating as others in world cricket, Guptill managed to stifle a tendency to play around his front pad or poke at good length deliveries moving away that forced him into the test wilderness for two years from 2013. Guptill, however, remained a consistent selection in the limited overs side and it was a stellar one-day World Cup that New Zealand co-hosted with Australia earlier this year that led to his recall to the test team. Courtesy of a century against Bangladesh and a World Cup record 237 not out against West Indies in the quarter-final, he finished with 547 runs at the tournament at an average of 68.37. He returned to the test arena in May against England at Lord's, almost two years to the day since his last match against the same opposition. His scores in those five tests since have shown an eerie symmetry with innings of 70 and 0 followed by 0 and 70 against England in May and 23, 23, 1, 17, 1 and 17 in Australia last month. Those struggles across the Tasman, where he was caught behind three times and trapped leg before twice, prompted coach Mike Hesson to send a tacit warning about his form when he was included in the squad for the Sri Lanka series. "Martin didn't perform to the level (he) would have liked over in Australia," Hesson said in naming the squad, while adding he "had confidence" Guptill would perform against Sri Lanka. His performance on Thursday undoubtedly repaid Hesson's faith in the opener. (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O'Brien)