March 15, 2001

Pitch conditions allow New Zealanders to show their abilities

Put the New Zealand cricketers on a better surface and they can be better players.

That's the message CLEAR Black Caps captain Stephen Fleming had after New Zealand finished the first day of the second National Bank Test on 284/5.

New Zealand were asked to bat first at Jade Stadium, and that suited them fine because that was what they were going to do if they had won the toss.

"It doesn't do a lot off the grass, we knew that.

"But it also highlighted that when we have a good surface we are pretty steady players.

"The openers were fantastic and that has a great effect on us back in the dressing room. It means you can bat in a positive way and be aggressive from ball one," Fleming said.

New Zealand had been keen to put the pressure on the field and that had been achieved by the openers running several quick singles.

"We put them under pressure and they didn't respond well," he said.

Matthew Bell's innings of 75 and his effort in the 91-run stand in Auckland had made him a different character in the side.

"It is great to see him with real authority in his batting. He is the main instigator with the running," he said.

Fleming said he was disappointed with his own run out on 32, it had been a combination of factors that led to his dismissal but it was his third run out of the summer and that was frustrating, he said.

Other batsmen were also feeling pressure after some bad scores but that was the way it had been this summer and there seemed to be a revolving door of criticism and in some cases that might have been unjustified, he said.

New Zealand had been careful against off spinner Saqlain Mushtaq after the problems he caused them in Auckland in the first Test but in conditions that were not quite so suitable for him he had not been so formidable.

"We had more scoring options here against him but there is no doubt he is certainly bowling well to us. It is always going to be a challenge against him," Fleming said.

Saqlain had two for 64 from 28 overs while Waqar Younis had one for 61 from 19 overs. Fazl-e-Akbar managed to get some reverse swing with the later overs with the old ball but the New Zealanders were largely untroubled by it.