September 20, 2000

Richardson in one of the least-fancied record lists

It's one of those statistical milestones that no one enjoys, out for 99 in a Test match.

Mark Richardson, for all the disappointment he must have felt getting out on that score in the last over of the first day of the second Test against Zimbabwe, joined an illustrious group of New Zealanders in the record books.

John Beck, Richard Hadlee and John Wright (twice) and Dipak Patel preceded Richardson in recording the mark, a record as unwelcome as New Zealand's continuing tenure of the lowest score in Test matches of 26.

It came on a day which Richardson, until this year one of the on-going hard-luck stories in New Zealand cricket, could scarcely have dreamt about 12 months ago.

He was second in the English season cricket averages with his 642 runs scored at an average of 71.33 during New Zealand's 'A' team tour of England. To be ranked between Australia's Michael Bevan (74.93) and West Indian Shivnarine Chanderpaul (69.66) is a moment to savour.

Add to the mix his triple century against Zimbabwe 'A', and it has clearly been a year to remember for Richardson.

However, the greater importance of his innings will depend on what New Zealand can make of the start it has in the Test. Nathan Astle is set to make Zimbabwe pay for the unfortunate manner of his first innings first Test dismissal.

If he, Craig McMillan, Chris Cairns, Adam Parore and Dion Nash can keep the scoring pressure up, while also extending Zimbabwe's time in the field, then New Zealand must be in a position of considerable strength for the remainder of the match.

New Zealand supporters will welcome Nash's inclusion and his progress through the game will be monitored closely. There is no doubt that New Zealand's aspirations against the tougher nations in world cricket, and South Africa is certainly that, are significantly bolstered by the competitive Nash's presence.

There are signs of a developing robustness to the New Zealand side's make-up. Normally, to take out players as experienced as Daniel Vettori and Matt Horne would have been the cause for crisis.

But Richardson's rapid advance proved its value, while Paul Wiseman's improvement seen in the first Test, if it can be replicated in Harare, will reduce the effects of Vettori's loss to the side.

These are the most significant signs yet that the developmental process New Zealand has undertaken has merit and is set to bear an even greater reward in the future.

For the moment though, it is runs and more runs that will be New Zealand's requirement of day two in Harare.

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