Hunt for perfection will make New Zealand more effective

Lynn McConnell

September 21, 2000

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If New Zealand can score 465 runs with such a mixture of batting as it did in setting a record total against Zimbabwe in the second Test at Harare, what is it capable of when getting everything together?

With Matthew Horne out of the top order, due to his chipped thumb, there was always the prospect the opening partnership would be under threat, and it was.

With Mathew Sinclair failing to build on his start, Stephen Fleming out for another poor score, Craig McMillan having to play a more defensive game than was his wont and after Adam Parore departed quicker than wanted, the Kiwis had to rely on some old-fashioned partnership building for its final advantage.

There's nothing particularly Einsteinian in that, but partnership building has not been a high area of academic success among New Zealand sides.

Recent examples do exist to suggest the pass rate may be set to get a little higher. In each of New Zealand's Test victories over the last two years, big partnerships have played a large part.

Notably in the 1998/99 second Test victory over India at the Basin Reserve. There it was Dion Nash and Daniel Vettori who added 137 runs for the eighth wicket to give New Zealand a comfortable first innings advantage.

Then in the second innings it was McMillan and Chris Cairns who added 137 runs for the sixth wicket to help the side recover from 74 for five to carry New Zealand to a four wicket win.

Last year in Hamilton, against the West Indies, a seventh wicket stand between Cairns and McMillan yielded 116 runs to help the side to a first innings advantage while putting the shell-shocked visitors under great pressure.

Then, in the second Test in Wellington a third wicket stand of 164 between Sinclair and Fleming, preceded a 189-run fifth wicket stand between Sinclair and Nathan Astle, as New Zealand took its first innings victory over the West Indies.

These are attributes that get good sides out of sticky problems time after time, and the 144 runs added by Cairns and Nash in Harare made up for the disappointments further up the order.

As satisfying as the final total of 465 may have been, coach David Trist could point to several areas where it could have been better.

It was the highest total New Zealand has scored against Zimbabwe, but it is still the lowest of their respective highest scores against the Test playing nations.

Zimbabwe can feel it got off lightly. With Mark Richardson, Astle and Nash all missing out on possible centuries, it could have been much worse. The loss of scoring momentum caused by untimely dismissals denied New Zealand the chance to post 500.

Trist's goal is a 2-0 series win. Tonight will tell whether that has been a realistic goal.

One of his leading players has his own incentive. The measure of a true all-rounder has to be the ability to score a century and take five wickets in an innings.

Chris Cairns wants to become the 20th person to achieve that. It is something his hero Sir Richard Hadlee never achieved in a Test. Bruce Taylor, on debut, being the only New Zealander to achieve the feat.

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