April 11, 2001

Scoring boot was on the other foot for McMillan

It's one thing to hit a world record for runs scored off an over in a Test match, but it is completely another to be captaining a side while your most experienced bowler goes for 30 runs in an over in a One-Day International.

But that was where New Zealand's Craig McMillan found himself when facing up to Sri Lanka in Sharjah yesterday as Sanath Jayasuriya took 30 off a Chris Harris over.

Captaining the side as regular skipper Stephen Fleming sets sail for a stint with Middlesex in English county cricket, McMillan was always going to be up against it.

Apart from the fact that Sri Lanka seems to have a genuine hold over New Zealand in ODIs at the moment, the inexperience of the side in such a foreign environment was always going to make it a tough assignment.

What was encouraging from a longer term point of view was the positions in which New Zealand managed to get themselves in the game, without pushing on to advantage.

The top was knocked off the Sri Lankan innings to have them two down for one run.

The 184-run partnership for the third wicket by Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardene was the killer. However, the durability of the bowlers, shone through as the Sri Lankans were not allowed to go on a rampage through the later stages.

And had Jayasuriya not been able to take those 30 runs off Harris, the score may even have been much lower than the 269/9 Sri Lanka managed to reach.

The treatment of Harris was interesting as he bowled his overs between 19 and 31, and then came back for three more between 39 and 43.

Leg spinner Brooke Walker was introduced before Harris, another interesting move, to start with the 14th over.

However, there have been problems in the past when Harris has been required to break his spell in two, and especially when he has to bowl in the last 10.

It may have been that New Zealand were looking at some experimentation and it is interesting that Andre Adams was able to bowl at the death with Jacob Oram, who bowled his nine overs through to the end of the innings.

Then, New Zealand got off to a fine start with Mathew Sinclair and Chris Nevin putting on 82 in just over 15 overs. Adams, a pinch hitter who did well against the Sri Lankans in their tour opener in New Zealand two months ago, was promoted.

The ploy failed, however, and it can only be wondered from a distance why, after such a fine start had been made, that Lou Vincent was not allowed to get in, settle in, and then attempt to dominate in the fashion he had shown during his innings in New Zealand.

At 82/0, New Zealand were in the position to cause a boilover. They created the chance but didn't take it.

Eventually, the side was dismissed for a disappointing 163 with McMillan and Harris the only other batsmen than the openers to reach double figures.

If nothing else the side can take some comfort from the creation of winning opportunities, the lesson has to be taking those chances further.

The batting of Nevin and Sinclair had to be a delight while the continued advancement of Daryl Tuffey and Jacob Oram is especially heartening as they quickly absorb the chances they have been given.

Pakistan, after all the criticism since their return home, will be another kettle of fish on Thursday and it will be of interest to see if New Zealand resorts to an "innovative" approach or sticks to more regular thinking in its tactical plan.

Sensing the chance for an upset, and any New Zealand win in Sharjah will be an upset, and taking it will be the goal for this Kiwi development project.