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December 12, 2011
New Zealand's former captain Stephen Fleming spoke for a generation of cricketers from his homeland when he rejoiced in a remarkable seven-run victory over Australia, and declared the result may be the galvanising moment the current leader Ross Taylor requires to build a winning era.
Not once did Fleming enjoy a Test win over Australia in a career that spanned 1994 to 2008, despite going close several times as one of the game's most widely respected leaders. He said the result in Hobart was close to the ultimate for New Zealand cricket, and forecast the building of a team that can rise up the world rankings.
"No it doesn't [get any bigger for New Zealand cricket]," Fleming told ESPNcricinfo. "A lot of our sides are actually measured on the way we play in Australia, which is why the series is so important to New Zealand players.
"It has been very difficult over the last decade or 15 years to play against Australia, it was a wonderful side they turned out, but there were opportunities this time and I know the players were disappointed that they didn't do better in the first Test. That will all be forgotten with the performance they've put in here.
"It's not the finished product by any means, and certainly with Ross' captaincy it is early days, but the boost of confidence he'll get from that and the players he will now have belief in, will carry a long way. It is a tough summer with South Africa touring for a full series, and it is not going to get any easier. Hopefully they can keep improving and this Test will certainly help the confidence levels, and we're a much better team at home than away."
Conditions in Hobart were reminiscent of those often found in New Zealand, and Fleming said the chance to bowl to Australia on sporting wickets was always enjoyed. He reasoned that a pitch offering as much to bowlers as batsmen would always make Test cricket an engrossing battle.
"I don't mind a bowlers' Test," he said. "It goes forward and gives everyone an opportunity, especially the New Zealand side where we thrive and we're better in those types of conditions than flat ones. I loved the way it ebbed and flowed, right up until before lunch today, it was an excellent performance by our bowlers and showed great determination by the batters, so I'm absolutely delighted for Ross and very pleased to beat Australia - it's been a long time between drinks."
Doug Bracewell's six wickets turned a fluctuating match decisively towards New Zealand either side of lunch on the fourth day, and Fleming said the young seamer's progress was both a reminder of the value of consistency, but also a tick for one of the country's most famed cricket families.
"He's been impressive right from his first performance in Zimbabwe," Fleming said, "He has bowled a good Test match length, he's had a couple of good pitches to bowl on in the Australia series, I think that is something the bowlers will be grateful for. Chris Martin bowled extremely well and led the attack, and enabled Doug to come through.
"Those wickets today were just reward for being consistently there and thereabouts and he in particular will take a lot of confidence from that. They're a very proud family, that's been talked about a lot, and his dad will be very proud of his performance, and John will be very happy that he's been able to beat Australia, which was one of John's big ambitions and desires when he played."
Reflecting on his own contests against Australia, during which he led a touring party to a drawn series against the team of Steve Waugh in 2001, Fleming said Taylor's team had taken an opportunity to exploit an opposition in a state of regeneration not dissimilar to their own.
"They probably put together the greatest sides of all time, that's what we felt like when we were playing the Australian side of years ago, but there was opportunity this time," Fleming said. "There's certainly a rebuilding phase going on in Australian cricket, but that's not to take anything away from the New Zealand performance, there are a lot of young players in there as well.
|"It will mean a lot for the cricketing summer here, which was looking at being a bit glum after the first Test performance, it is a nice shot in the arm and a great Christmas present for us"|
"There were just more opportunities with more Australian players under pressure, and a case of trying to exploit that and it looked like the opportunity was gone, but they dug deep today and came away with a great victory. It will mean a lot for the cricketing summer here, which was looking at being a bit glum after the first Test performance, it is a nice shot in the arm and a great Christmas present for us."
Change has been ever-present in New Zealand cricket in 2011, as a new team structure was put in place around Taylor's fledgling captaincy. Fleming said there were enough signs that the team could be about to begin phase of strong results, allowing the structure to evolve around it.
"John Buchanan is in the mix putting things in place and it is going to take time for positive results to materialise, but in between they've just got to perform," Fleming said. "Performance puts the blowtorch on everything and often the best systems are changed just because the performance of the top team is not as good as it should be.
"But they've got the makings of being a good side, a good summer here and a bit of experience built on, particularly after this performance, and I do think they have the makings of a good side. They're pretty young, the majority of the players are pretty young, and they have a young captain. So hopefully it is the start of a nice period for New Zealand cricket."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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