ICC win reflects emerging status of Fleming's men

Lynn McConnell

October 16, 2000

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One of the cornerstones of the restructuring of New Zealand Cricket five years ago was the need to make the national team "internationally, a strong and respected competitor."

All the signs in the past 15 months have been pointing in that direction.

But on Sunday, early Monday morning New Zealand time, Stephen Fleming's CLEAR Black Caps arrived at the summit.

It's not a flat-top, a spot to pitch a tent and camp for a day or two.

It's pointed. And sharp. There's enough room to raise the flag and tell the rest of the world New Zealand has arrived.

As long as this team plays together, and there are many more prospective years ahead, Nairobi will be a rallying cry for teamwork, application and a touch of control.

Certainly the victory over India in the ICC KnockOut final was achieved by a commanding innings played by Chris Cairns, a player now challenging Sir Richard Hadlee for the title of the game's finest all-rounder from this country.

But the success was not only confined to victory in the final.

There were three distinct phases in this campaign.

The first was putting the back-to-back losses in Zimbabwe out of the mind while preparing for the first game of the tournament against that same side. That was comfortably achieved.

The second was ridding the side of the bogey opponent Pakistan in the semi-final. That too was achieved, but in a grittier way.

Then there was the containment of the immensely powerful Indian batting line-up. As much as Cairns' century did the ultimate damage in the game, the application of pressure during the middle and later stages of the Indian innings made the win possible.

The life was squeezed out of the Indians and from that chance created by their own handiwork, the New Zealanders lived up to their motto 'carpe diem'. They seized the time.

Especially significant to the outcome of the tournament was the manner in which lesser lights in the side stepped up in the absence of Dion Nash, Daniel Vettori and Cairns, in the semi-final.

Shayne O'Connor, Scott Styris and Craig McMillan, after a woeful run of One-Day International batting, made the difference.

There was also the sight of Roger Twose providing middle-order solidity, Nathan Astle coming to the fore with innings which, if they didn't provide the substance ultimately, certainly fleshed out the top order which remains the most vulnerable part of this side.

If there is a better candidate as deputy to Australia's Michael Bevan as the best finisher in the game it must be Chris Harris. Struggle he might, especially against the spin bowlers, but somehow he survives when it matters and that is class.

Then there is the manner in which Adam Parore is so capable at coming in and picking up the tempo of an innings from the first ball he faces. It is a wonderful asset, which has paid dividends several times over.

More than anything, the result is a culmination of all the work that has gone into the New Zealand game by administrators, coaches and support staff.

There is now an identifiable method to this side's play. It is not the dash and dazzle of some other sides.

Rather it is measured, a little conservative even.

But the vital things are being done well. That is the New Zealand way, and that is what this side is reflecting.

Already this campaign there is a Test series win over Zimbabwe. An ICC KnockOut cup in the cabinet and to come there is the chance to settle some scores with South Africa.

Summer is looking a whole lot better, even with the injury problems that still diminish the latent potential of the side.

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