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NZ v Pakistan, 8th match, Champions Trophy

'I couldn't have asked for more' - Fleming

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan in Mohali

October 25, 2006

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For Stephen Fleming it was a day to cherish © Getty Images
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He started the fight with a battling effort on a juicy track and ended the contest with a fine catch. In between he became the captain with most number of caps and runs. At the end of the day, he'd enabled New Zealand to cruise into the semi-finals, becoming the first side to do so in this competition. Stephen Fleming, as he admitted at the end of the day, really "couldn't have asked for more".

"The number of balls that passed the bat and the number of inside edges that went for one, could have been out on any other day," he said. "But we made the most of it and put up a pretty competitive score."

If Fleming's innings was important for New Zealand to stay in the contest, Shane Bond's final spell, when the game was really up for grabs, sealed it. In the first over of his second spell, Bond first knocked over Mohammad Yousuf, who's gorgeous 71 threatened to win it for Pakistan, before accounting for the dangerous Razzaq a couple of overs later. "It was such a crucial moment," admitted Fleming. "He [Yousuf] was batting so well. I brought the strike bowler back and got the wicket. Just delighted we sort of treading the water a little bit, needed something to happen.

"What we saw was a guy with extra pace," he continued while talking of a spell that was furious in its execution. Bond cleverly used the dew-factor to his advantage, digging in the shot balls and exploiting the zip. "He's also extremely smart," Fleming assessed, "he bowls different pace bouncers in the slog overs, that is the kind of things he works on. He is also very quick on his day."

What New Zealand also had to counter was the wetness, a critical factor despite chemicals being sprayed on the outfield. "It was pretty wet," Fleming said," and everyone did everything in their power to make it as dry as possible. We changed the balls many times as possible. It was still wet, but we were able to cope with it. Daniel Vettori, in particular, bowled extremely well."

Scott Styris, who'd top-scored with a vital 86, couldn't take the field after injuring his back and Fleming hoped he would recover in time for the sem-final. "His back and hamstring is still pretty tight. His back stiffened up quite dramatically, so we have to see how he copes up. Shane also had a twinge with his hamstring. That is why we made him bowl the rest of his overs instead of waiting till the death."

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo

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