March 16, 2002

McKenzie relishes his moment in the spotlight

The CLEAR Black Caps had little to remember from the third day of the Test at Jade Stadium as England ran up a huge score sending New Zealand to almost certain defeat. However, one local player was not complaining.

When England's Andrew Flintoff and Graham Thorpe entered their second 50 overs together with the score at 387/5, New Zealand could be forgiven for dropping their heads.

Injured Chris Cairns had left the field, to be replaced by an almost unknown 13th man, Marcel McKenzie, roped in from his groundsman work at the Christchurch East Shirley club ground, Burwood Park.

But then New Zealand's luck changed, with 23-year-old McKenzie splitting the record stand by taking a difficult outfield chance under the new grandstand to shift Flintoff for 137.

"It was quite hard going in from the shade to the sun," McKenzie said of the low catch taken off Nathan Astle's bowling. "It was a bit close for comfort."

Modest and quietly spoken McKenzie, who helped East Shirley win the Christchurch one-day club competition last week, was not overawed by his first appearance with the internation team. After all, two of his club team mates are Astle and Craig McMillan.

"It was a bit of a shock for the system turning up with Cairnsy injured and (12th man) Chris Martin not wanting to come on. It was just a pity so many runs were scored."

Two seasons ago Otago approached Oamaru-born McKenzie, who moved to Christchurch when he was 13, to play provincial cricket for them. This year McKenzie has failed to attract the attention of a new Canterbury selection panel and is due to have a meeting with them before the winter break.

"It's been a big disappointment this season," he said. "I don't think I've got much of a chance of getting picked for Canterbury's last two games."

So, with his career at the crossroads, McKenzie does not know how his cricket career will unfold, although he will play in the national club championship on March 27. But at least he will be remembered forever as the one bright spark on the Black Caps' black Friday.