March 27, 2000

Waugh reflective as all-conquering team sets new standard


WELLINGTON, March 27 -- Captain Steve Waugh reflected on one of the most traumatic eras in Australian cricket tonight as his team blazed to a standard never before reached by a team wearing the baggy green cap.

Australia surged to its ninth consecutive Test win with another clinical dismissal of New Zealand in the second Test in Wellington, recording a six-wicket win late on the fourth day.

With shadows climbing across Basin Reserve, Waugh's twin Mark hit the winning runs which gave Australia its first series win in New Zealand since Greg Chappell's team won in 1977.

It stretched Australia's winning streak past the previous national best of eight matches set by Warwick Armstrong's 1920-21 team, pushing it closer to the world mark of 11 held by the fearsome West Indies unit of the 1980s.

Waugh savoured the win in a country which had provided him with some of his darkest moments, recalling when Australian cricket lurched into crisis during the 1985-86 tour.

Australia was humbled on the tour, adding to the frustration of captain Allan Border, who led a team wrecked by the strain of a rebel tour to South Africa.

Waugh was today wearing the same cap he used during that series, revealing he had told his team to savour the good times.

"One of my statements was 'don't ever take winning for granted' because I was here 15 years ago when we got bowled out for 103 as a 20-year-old wondering if I was ever going to win a Test," Waugh said.

"If you can pass things on like that and make sure the guys are aware it is a big achievement (to win a Test) then you can't relax and you can't become complacent.

"They were aware that we went through tough periods but they were more concerned about making sure this year is one that's going to be remembered."

It would be hard to forget the winning streak which started in Zimbabwe in October before stretching through series wins against Pakistan, India and New Zealand.

Add that to Australia's recent world record unbeaten streak of 14 one-day matches, and the current core of players is certainly among the best ever produced.

"It's a good side and I said once before it would be competitive with anyone," Waugh said.

"I keep reading that I said it was the best side but I'll stick to what I really said - we would compete with any side."

Victory was rarely in doubt during this Test as Australia continually hosed down gutsy comebacks from the home team.

The Kiwis showed even more kick this morning when it appeared they were ready for the last rites after Australia reduced them to 8-222, a lead of just 101 on a good batting wicket.

But No.10 batsman Simon Doull thrashed 40 from 35 balls, taking New Zealand to 294 in its second innings and ensuring Australia would have a competitive run chase of 174.

It started shakily when Michael Slater (12) was dismissed by injured spinner Daniel Vettori before an out-of-form Greg Blewett (25 from 115 balls) and Steve Waugh (15) fell during the pursuit.

But consistent Justin Langer (57) and Mark Waugh (44 not out) guided Australia to 4-177 against a New Zealand attack struggling without Vettori (1-19).

He was not expected to bowl today after succumbing to a lower back problem but he emerged for Australia's second innings, taking a wicket with his first ball when he enticed Slater into a sharp stumping.

It was typical of the drama of the Test which featured blistering knocks from Chris Cairns (109 and 69) and Steve Waugh (151 not out) but Slater received the ultimate accolade when he was named man of the match.

Vettori completed only eight overs before leaving the field and the 21-year-old was rated only a 50-50 chance of playing in Friday's final Test in Hamilton.

Blewett's chances of playing in the next Test could be rated the same after he again struggled today, leaving the door open for reserve opener Matthew Hayden. AAP