India v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Mohali, 2nd day

Why Richardson's 2000th makes him special

Mark Richardson - a very special batsman © AFP Mark Richardson's delayed start to Test cricket hasn't prevented him from jointly achieving the record of being the fastest player to score 2000 runs for the country

Lynn McConnell

October 17, 2003

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Mark Richardson - a very special batsman

Mark Richardson's delayed start to Test cricket hasn't prevented him from jointly achieving the record of being the fastest player to score 2000 runs for the country. When he passed 121 en route to 145 at Mohali - his highest score in Test cricket - he equalled Andrew Jones' feat in scoring his 2000th run in his 44th Test innings.

After Jones and Richardson comes the long-standing mark of Bert Sutcliffe, who took 46 innings for his 2000 runs. Both Jones and Richardson were latecomers to international cricket, but for different reasons. Jones, after a solid grounding in New Zealand country cricket, took time to transfer his ability at that level to score sufficiently consistently in the first-class game and warrant selection for internationals.

Richardson's story is now well-known - a player who converted to batting as a consolation for losing his bowling ability. He won selection after an amazing New Zealand A tour of England in 2000 and celebrated his international selection by scoring a triple-century in a first-class match at Kwekwe in Zimbabwe. Richardson was 29 when first selected; Jones was 27.

Jones, who is a realistic contender for the No. 3 position in the all-time New Zealand side, retired with 2922 runs at 44.27. Richardson, after today's innings, has an average of 49.36. Perhaps there is something to be said for never pensioning off older players and considering them belatedly for international duty. They bring to their performance a hunger that makes them very dangerous indeed.

Of the pair, Jones had a better conversion rate, scoring seven centuries and 11 half-centuries, while Richardson has now scored three centuries and 16 half-centuries.

The other significant achievement of the day - the first three batsmen scoring centuries in the same innings - is a new one, although Lou Vincent, Stephen Fleming, Nathan Astle and Adam Parore did make hundreds in the summer of 2001-02 at Perth. In this case, the three centuries scored against India rewrote the career highest-scores of each of the batsmen.

One of the questions that has been increasingly discussed in New Zealand in recent years, as Stephen Fleming's men have started to find consistency, is where they rank in comparison to the side regarded as New Zealand's finest. From the summer of 1979-80, when Geoffrey Howarth took over as captain, New Zealand won 19 Tests in the next decade, with Jeremy Coney, Jeff Crowe and John Wright all having lengthy stints as captain. In that same time, batsmen scored 47 centuries in 66 Tests.

Since the summer of 1995-96, when Stephen Fleming became captain of New Zealand, they have won 20 Tests in 67 matches before Mohali, and the batsmen have scored 41 centuries. While the number of centuries may be less, more players went on to higher scores. The highest score posted in the 1980s was 188, twice scored by Martin Crowe, against Australia and the West Indies. But under Fleming, there have been five double-centuries scored. Fleming's 274 not out earlier in the year was the highest, and Nathan Astle's 222 was clearly the fastest.

But of all the players who have been selected in the modern era, none has shown the dedication to run-scoring that Richardson has exhibited. It is significant and salutary that the only New Zealand players, with a minimum of five Tests, to have better averages are Stewie Dempster (65.73) and Martin Donnelly (52.91). That is why Mark Richardson is such a special player.

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