March 27, 2001

Saving the best till last New Zealand hope

In a summer of so much frustration for New Zealand cricket, days like today do a lot to erase the bad memories.

Pakistan all out for 104 in 26.5 madcap overs, New Zealand 160/0 at stumps called 16 overs short of the quota due to bad light.


Everything went right for New Zealand, even captain Stephen Fleming won the toss.

The Pakistanis' day got off to the worst start. Captain Moin Khan ruled himself unavailable overnight while Mohammad Sami was unable to come through a fitness test after developing shin soreness.

What had to be significant for New Zealand's hopes in the game was the fact that both opening bowlers Daryl Tuffey and Chris Martin did not bowl as well as they have in other spells this summer.

It just pointed to the old adage that you take the wickets, no matter how they come, because there are days when you bowl superbly and go wicketless.

There was a presence about the New Zealand effort in the field which showed they understood they had their best break of the summer.

Pakistan went to lunch at 103/8, and the New Zealanders were disappointed.

"We weren't happy at lunchtime but as the day evolved it faded into insignificance," Fleming said.

"I don't think we've had a better day. It was a complete day and quite exhilarating."

They had no sympathy for the plight of the Pakistanis and their injuries - they had suffered enough themselves this year for any of that.

And they poured the pressure on. Five Pakistan batsmen walked off with nought beside their names. The fact that Yousuf Youhana and Faisal Iqbal were two of them made New Zealand's job easier.

The solitary exception was Younis Khan, a player who relished the challenge, he drove straight, and with effect to show the way the bowling should be played. But he lost partners so quickly that he was unable to farm the bowling to add to his runs.

He was the last man out, but after a graphic demonstration of the skills that will ensure his future in the game, he departed, last man out for 36 off 57 balls and having hit five fours.

Then it was time for Matthew Bell and Mark Richardson to take hold of the game. They have worked up such a successful liaison in such a short period of time it begs the question over what has taken them so long?

Bell was a revelation. His was an innings of a player abounding in confidence and taking on the great Pakistan bowler Waqar Younis and getting on top of him with a series of finely executed hook and pull shots.

He went to stumps on 89 not out, his highest Test score, a shareholder in New Zealand's best opening partnership against Pakistan, and joint holder with Richardson with a New Zealand Test record fourth successive opening stand worth more than 50 runs.

Fleming said he was "deleriously happy" with the opening pair.

"It was fantastic, a continuation of what has been a golden combination.

"Their style, and the way they are going about their work is positive and aggressive.

"It was as close to a typical New Zealand wicket and what we've been hoping for all summer," Fleming said of the WestpacTrust pitch which has developed such a good reputation for its pace, carry and consistent bounce.

There had been a recklessness in the Pakistan batting while the New Zealand bowlers had not performed as well as they could despite Chris Martin (4/52) and Daryl Tuffey (4/39) ending with such good figures.

"We will have to bowl better if we are to win this Test," he said.

"In this position your biggest threat is time, and we now have four days to play with."

Fleming added that he had gone into the Test with off spinner Grant Bradburn in the side after a discussion with the groundsman who had suggested that if New Zealand were required to bowl on the fourth or fifth days it could be slower and more suitable for a slower bowler.

It was a conservative choice on his part but with the three pacemen and support in the side the attack in the game should be enough to do the job.