Fleming encouraged by New Zealand's 265-run victory
Despite opposition described as "simply disappointing" by New Zealand coach David Trist, Stephen Fleming said he was "very encouraged" going into the Test series against South Africa after his side's 265-run victory over North West in Potchefstroom on Monday.
The tourists wrapped up the match 44 minutes after lunch on the final day as Shayne O'Connor took his fifth wicket of the innings to dismiss the home team for 157 in their second innings.
It was pretty much one-day traffic throughout the game, with North West simply unable to match their opponents in any phase of the game, but if at least one of the functions of a warm-up match is to boost the winning team's morale, then North West proved amenable punchbags.
Still, said Fleming, "I'm happy with where we are. There were some good things in this game. (Our bowlers) bowled with discipline. I'm very encouraged going into the Test series. I'm more encouraged than I would have been two weeks ago".
Trist was both more critical of North West and more circumspect about the gains made by New Zealand. "I would have preferred better opposition than we met today," he said. "They were simply disappointing and they would be disappointed, I guess, with their performance."
On the positive side, the match provided two centuries for Craig Spearman as well as runs for Fleming and Nathan Astle, eight wickets for O'Connor in the match and the occasional flash of form from Daryl Tuffey who, every so often, bent his back and looked a far better bowler.
As far as Fleming was concerned, "the onus for me was on the bowling for this game'' but whether New Zealand have been able to settle on their attack for the First Test is a moot point.
New Zealand's top six pretty much pick themselves: Mark Richardson and Spearman to open, followed by Mathew Sinclair, Fleming, Astle and Craig McMillan. Adam Parore will keep and should bat seven, Brooke Walker is likely to provide the spin option with Paul Wiseman still hobbling about with a sprained ankle, and O'Connor will spearhead the attack.
What's left are two places for three bowlers - Tuffey, Chris Martin and Scott Styris. Tuffey probably did enough in Potchefstroom to get a share of the new ball, with the last spot going to either Styris or Martin.
Styris might well be seen as a batsman who bowls, but his presence would shorten the Kiwi tail, while Martin, oddly, bowled better on a slow pitch in Paarl last week than on a bouncier wicket in Potchefstroom.
As far the home team, the less said the better. They did not provide first-class opposition and at the moment the attractive new North West Stadium seems wasted on them.