December 31, 2001

Two quick Test wins the appetiser for hectic one-day programme

Two comprehensive victories over the last week have seen the CLEAR Black Caps move up the ICC Test Championship ladder.

The Test in Hamilton produced a magnificent wicket considering that when we turned up two days before the Test the groundsman had not even cut it!

Hamilton is I believe the best cricket wicket in New Zealand and Doug Strachan has to take all the credit for giving the players a surface to play attractive, aggressive cricket on.

Gone are the days of the low slow New Zealand wickets and it will be better for our game if all major grounds can follow the Hamilton example.

Mark Richardson and Craig McMillan dug us out of a hole in the first innings in Hamilton and the way they went about their run scoring was highly entertaining. I know Macca loves playing at Hamilton and his fifth Test hundred was great.

After getting a couple of starts in Aussie Richie was also happy to convert into a hundred.

We knew when we bowled that patience was required but the Bangladesh batsman came out and surprised us with their cavalier attitude. After a slight hiccup we managed to force the follow-on, then reach a comprehensive victory on the fourth morning.

It was pleasing for me to get a haul of wickets in this Test and to close in on the 200 Test wicket/2000 Test run double. I felt the ball was coming out well and I am getting the bounce back in my bowling which was lacking in Australia.

We flew down to Wellington knowing that the outdoor practice facilities were non-existent as the rain that had fallen made it impossible for the ground staff, and getting a Test match wicket was going to be hard enough.

Christmas Day was spent with our families at the hotel and we were treated to a beautiful lunch. The Boxing Day Test has made Christmas a little different for us now as the normal frivolities Christmas Day brings are a distant memory.

Christmas Day for us is now about preparing for a Test match the following day, but we all love playing this Test as there is a great feeling during the game because of the support from the Wellington public and the history that the Basin Reserve provides.

Considering the rain, the wicket wasn't too bad but ill discipline from the Bangladesh batsmen meant that their first innings collapsed to open the door wide open for us to secure a big first innings lead and put the pressure back on. This is exactly what happened and we managed to wrap up the Test in just over two days for the second successive time.

I think the Bangladesh side faces some tough times in the next few years but their plight could be helped by the host countries by agreeing to give them more warm-up games prior to any Test matches. This will give their players exposure to foreign wickets and will help them learn how to go about playing the longer version of the game.

In New Zealand I felt they were pretty much thrown in the deep end, good luck to them and it won't be too many years I'm sure before they are competitive.

For the CLEAR Black Caps the attention turns to the one-day game with a big diet of One-Day Internationals over the next two months. The VB Series in Aussie is shaping up to be a beauty. While in the past Aussie have dominated their own competition and rightly so will be favourites for this one there will be two very good sides biting at their heels. On their day each side is capable of winning and the shorter game brings sides closer together. The New Zealand selectors have for the first time in ages the hard task of selecting a team with lots of candidates and there are some exciting players out there. Personally I can't wait for it to start.