Knee is recovering well but frustration rules

Chris Cairns

November 23, 2000

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My injured knee is coming along well with the work I am doing to build it up and get it back to match fitness.

I am aiming for the Zimbabwe series here in New Zealand so hopefully I can be available for selection around Christmas time.

In the meantime, it has been very frustrating sitting back here watching the television coverage of the CLEAR Black Caps in South Africa and not being there and playing.

With so many senior players out, the Test series was always going to be tough.

Results wise, the lead up to the first Test couldn't have been better. Dominating the first game in Paarl then a comprehensive victory in Potchefstroom should've made for a confident side going into Bloemfontein.

I read Steve Fleming's comments that not too much should be read into the results as he felt the opposition were perhaps not up to first-class standard.

Before Tests it's always good to try and play tough games to get you up to speed, especially against a side like South Africa, so although results wise it was good, the physical and mental preparation was perhaps not as good as it might have been.

Winning the toss and batting, South Africa must've been been a bit jumpy as they lost their first wicket in the very first Shayne O'Connor over of the game. I was watching with interest how Daryl Tuffey and Chris Martin would perform and in that first session when nerves would've been high, Jacques Kallis and Gary Kirsten took toll on two new, inexperienced bowlers.

Bowling just before the lunch break, Martin took his first Test wicket and also a great catch from Nathan Astle. There was a critical moment in this innings involving technology which, in hindsight, proved very costly. Kallis, on first impression and by the reaction of the Black Caps, looked to be run out at the non-striker's end from a deflection by O'Connor.

Unfortunately, the right camera angle could not be found at the precise moment, yet a few balls later we were given seven different angles of a Kallis cover drive!

Costly indeed as Kallis in supreme form batted through the first day to register a fine 100. Once again the South African lower order came together to enable them to register 471-9 declared.

With Allan Donald striving for the 300, Mark Richardson dented it slightly by taking 15 off his first over. But he showed why he is one of the best by keeping at Richardson and eventually he had him out.

The Black Cap first innings saw many players get starts and the guys will be bitterly disappointed they didn't convert into big scores.

Test matches are about time and the good 60 or 70 don't take, in the context of a test, a lot of time.

You need big hundreds to win Tests because, with others batting around the people scoring the big runs, you play the opposition out of the game and create a situation where only your team can win the game.

With New Zealand following on and having to bat for over two days, this was always going to be an uphill battle although I felt the guys did dig in and tried their best against probably the best pace attack in Test cricket.

I have to say I felt for Steve being given out for 99. There have been reports that it may not have been out.

But you wouldn't have known it from Flem's reaction.

The camera followed Flem off the field. They followed him through the players' enclosure and into the dressing room.

And not once did he give any indication of a wrong decision.

He accepted the call, and I admire him for that.

Even though the South Africans were five down, I still think they won pretty comfortably and in the remaining two games they will be tough to beat.

The Black Caps have now had something to measure themselves against in the remaining two Tests.

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