March 15, 2001

Sinclair's century sets scene for New Zealand recovery

Mathew Sinclair scored his third Test century in 148 balls of outstanding control when Pakistan asked New Zealand to bat first in the second National Bank Test at Christchurch's Jade Stadium today.

Coming to the wicket with New Zealand 102/1, Sinclair ensured the foundation provided by the opening pair was developed, and while four more wickets were lost on the day, New Zealand were in a good position to ram home their advantage tomorrow.

It is the second Test century scored by Sinclair this summer, after he scored 150 in the second Test against South Africa at Port Elizabeth in December.

The day ended with New Zealand 284/5. Sinclair was 100 not out and Craig McMillan one not out.

New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming said it had been "a pretty good day, very positive."

"We lost one, maybe two wickets, too many to say it was a good day," he said.

Fleming was full of praise for Sinclair's innings.

"He's an all or nothing player. I don't think there's a cleaner striker of the ball that I have played with," he said.

Fleming said New Zealand would be looking to get up to around 400 tomorrow. That means Sinclair and his incumbent partner Craig McMillan have a big day in front of them.

New Zealand did get their partnership mechanisms right, even if they go into the second day still needing the highest one of them all to be played.

An opening stand of 102, followed by 61 and 85 represented a much more satisfying day than might have been expected after the calamity at Eden Park on Monday.

Matthew Bell and Mark Richardson built on their 91-run stand in the second innings in Auckland with the first century partnership by a Kiwi opening pair since New Zealand played India in Ahmedabad in the 1998/99 season.

Bell, with his ungainly stance taking guard outside leg stump looking like an 800 metre runner about to leave the mark, looked more confident. Although what will happen when the Pakistanis appreciate his fondness for leg side play and attempt to close that avenue off the test for him will be how he handles off side play.

Whatever, it was encouraging to see him play his pull shots with confidence and continue the development of an opening combination with Richardson. It offered a completely different look at the top of the order.

He did have a life on eight when dropped by Younis Khan while on 54 he looked to start walking after an edge from Waqar Younis was taken by wicket-keeper Moin Khan. He stopped walking back as Waqar ran past him appealing to the umpire, Dave Quested, again.

Television replays suggested he was out, but it was some pay back for him after he was given out when not touching the ball in the first Test in Auckland.

Richardson was not so quickly into his scoring groove, although one cover drive off Mohammad Sami was a fine shot.

Fleming looked to be in a good scoring groove, especially when the first ball he faced was driven straight back down the ground for four from Saqlain's bowling. Another pull shot for four off Fazl-e-Akbar was a fine shot.

But just at the time he should have been starting to feel more comfortable he was run out for 32 with the score on 248.

New Zealand finished the day on 284/5 having lost Nathan Astle at 276, edging the new ball from Waqar Younis to Moin Khan while nightwatchman Grant Bradburn edged Fazl-e-Akbar to Imran Farhat to third slip to be out for a duck at 282.