April 18, 2001

Sinclair makes his mark in Sharjah and shakes record books

New Zealand's last minute dash to Sharjah was always going to be a risk.

Key players, even more than during the injury-plagued summer, were not available and the trip was only ever undertaken as a means by which more players could be exposed to, and scrutinised in, international play in a harsh environment.

The team did at least manage one win, and an impressive win too.

The players will go their own ways after the tournament but there are likely to be more than a few "what ifs".

What if the middle-order batting had been more supportive of the top order?

What if the bowling had more of an edge to it?

For all that however, there was more cause for encouragement to come out of the exercise.

Mathew Sinclair, playing against quality attacks as fielded by Pakistan and Sri Lanka, managed two One-Day International centuries. He is at last starting to wear the cloak of a player capable of making it in both types of the game.

Sinclair's feats are notable on several counts.

No New Zealander, in 21 appearances at Sharjah before this tournament, had managed to reach a century. The highest anyone had gone was Robert Vance's 96 against Sri Lanka in 1987/88. Sinclair has done it twice within a week.

He is only the eighth New Zealand batsman to score two ODI centuries. The others are: Nathan Astle nine, Martin Crowe four, Chris Cairns, Stephen Fleming and Glenn Turner three, Ken Rutherford and Mark Greatbatch two.

Sinclair hasn't done his ODI average any harm either. Before going to Sharjah, in a season in which he was dropped after three ODIs against Sri Lanka, he missed the last two games against Sri Lanka and five against Pakistan, has gone from an average of 18.0 after nine ODIs to 38.83.

Surprisingly, it has been 20 years, two months and three days, since a New Zealander has batted through a full ODI innings. And on that occasion it was Bruce Edgar, who 13 days after batting through 50 overs against Australia in Melbourne to score 102 not out in the underarm match, backed it up by scoring 99 not out against India in a 45-over ODI in Auckland.

Sinclair's effort in scoring two centuries in three innings is the closest any New Zealand batsman has come to matching Greatbatch's feat in scoring 102 not out and 111 in consecutive one-day innings in England in 1990.

Turner managed 171 not out and 114 not out in three ODIs against East Africa and India in the 1975 World Cup, Astle completed two in four in 1995/96, scoring his first in New Zealand's home ODI series against Zimbabwe at Auckland and the second against England at the 1996 World Cup opener in Ahmedabad.

Those two centuries allowed him to claim three in ten innings, following the 114 scored against India in Nagpur earlier in the summer.

Sinclair's 141-run second wicket partnership with Matthew Bell, whose 66 was his highest score in ODIs, was the best second wicket stand for New Zealand in games against all countries.

The other big winner on the short visit was Auckland all-rounder Kyle Mills. Taking three for 30 runs helped his figures considerably, but he has shaped for some time as the sort of player who could make a significant impact for New Zealand and his fortunes will be watched over the next 12 months.

For durability over the summer, the effort of Chris Harris is most notable. New Zealand played 30 ODIs over the summer and he bowled in 27 of them. He took 18 wickets at an average of 52.11 but still managed a run rate of 4.77.

If nothing else, the venture to Sharjah has provided the national selectors with a tough job of settling on their one-day side for the Sri Lankan tournament in July and the Australian tri-series later next summer. Interesting times lie ahead as New Zealand attempts to improve its success ratio in the one-day game.