Vettori revels in proudest performance
Daniel Vettori was a proud and content captain after leading from the front with bat, ball and in the field, as New Zealand routed England by 189 runs on the final day in Hamilton to go 1-0 up in the three-match series.
After an early declaration, England were left needing a nominal target of 300 in 81 overs, but they never came close thanks to a sensational new-ball burst from Kyle Mills, who claimed four prime wickets in his first six overs, as England collapsed to 110 all out.
"This is probably my most satisfying Test win over the long time that I have played," said Vettori, who made his debut against England during the 1996-97 series. "This was a very flat wicket and it didn't offer a lot, but what we did was bowl well and set up a good total in the first innings. That's the way you go about winning Test cricket. It's something we haven't done that well and to step up and do it against a very good England team and win ...
"I would like to reflect on how well we bowled," said Vettori. "It was a tough wicket to score on and the five of us got together and put in a pretty consistent performance. In 170 overs of Test cricket you don't see that often, you normally have a little spell where it gets away from you, but I thought we produced 170 overs of continually good bowling."
It was Mills and his new-ball partner, Chris Martin (3 for 33), who were the stars of the final day. "It's a pretty fantastic atmosphere in the changing-room," said Mills, who finished with career-best figures of 4 for 16 from 13 overs. "To go one-up on the Poms is just fantastic. We'll definitely enjoy the moment."
At the start of the fifth day, the general assumption was that New Zealand's chief threat would come from their spinners, Vettori and Jeetan Patel, but thanks to Mills' early onslaught and a mid-innings burst from Chris Martin, they ended up taking only two wickets between them
"Our plan for the day was maybe to get one or, at the most, two wickets with the new ball, then bowl the spinners in the middle session before having another spell with the older ball," said Mills. "But this exceeded all expectations. We got on top of them early and took the game right away from them."
"The performances of Chris and Kyle probably set up the victory," said Vettori. "They bowled superbly, especially Kyle with the new ball - any time you get a team four for 30 and take probably the best four batsmen out of play it makes a huge difference. That set up a real belief in the side, and then there was the second spell from Chris coming back with the ball starting to reverse. The ball that bowled [Tim] Ambrose is one of those balls that you only get once every four or five years."
"Kyle felt confident," said Vettori. "He didn't bowl too much yesterday, he only bowled the one ball. He just wanted to take a chance with it. The whole way, we have stressed that we just have to put the ball in the right spot. It's easy to say but to get a group of bowlers to do it is nice. At the end of his spell, I think Kyle was beginning to reverse it. He knew what wanted to do with it, and he did it consistently."
Nevertheless, New Zealand's stand-out performer was Vettori himself, who produced crucial innings of 88 and 35 from the pivotal No. 8 position, and bowled with skill, stamina and control in both innings to prevent England's nervous batsmen from taking control at any stage of the match.
|"A lot of them don't need leadership, they know what they need to do every time they step on the park, but it does set a nice tone when your captain is out there performing"|
"I think the best way you can captain a team is with your performance," said Vettori. "I was surprised to get Man of the Match, but when you put some runs on the board and do a job it helps the side. At least you've got one person going in the right direction and the rest will follow from there. A lot of them don't need leadership, they know what they need to do every time they step on the park, but it does set a nice tone when your captain is out there performing."
Vettori's biggest task of the fifth day was in the timing of his declaration, which came at 177 for 9 - a target of exactly 300 - after the addition of 30 runs in the first half-hour's play.
"It felt right," said Vettori. "It was the situation we wanted to be in last night. While we were still confident with a lead of 270-280, the declaration gave us a little bit of momentum and we took that into the field."
Confidence was something that New Zealand displayed throughout the game, even while Ryan Sidebottom was ripping through their middle-order during their dramatic collapse on the fourth afternoon. Sidebottom finished with career-best figures of 6 for 49, including a hat-trick, as New Zealand lost six wickets for 20 to slip from 99 for 1 to 119 for 7, but Vettori refused to panic.
"We were a bit shellshocked at the time," he admitted. "We went out there aggressively and I think the way Stephen [Fleming] batted was outstanding. He took a lot of the initiative away from England but then we lost that clump of wickets. Once again, the way Sidebottom bowled was fantastic but we came back into the shed last night knowing that 270-280 would be enough. There were only going to be two results - a win or a draw."
After Mills' final-morning onslaught and Martin's mid-innings efforts, New Zealand were made to wait for victory as Ian Bell and Monty Panesar dug in defiantly during a 33-run stand for the tenth wicket. But Vettori already knew that the match was in the bag.
"We probably knew after [Paul] Collingwood's wicket," he said. "I think we were pretty comfortable. Their top six are proven and we wanted to get into Ambrose and their longish tail so once we got Collingwood there was a good feel in the camp."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo