SA Invitational XI v New Zealanders, Bloemfontein, 1st day October 25, 2007

Vettori spares New Zealand blushes

Cricinfo staff

New Zealanders 318 (Vettori 99, McCullum 46, Abdullah 4-81) v SA Invitational XI

Daniel Vettori marked the beginning of his first full tour in charge of New Zealand by saving his team from embarrassment on the opening day of their warm-up match against a South African Invitational XI at Bloemfontein. The Kiwi lower-order came to the rescue, after their main batsmen had left them teetering on 126 for 6, with Vettori falling one short of his century.

But as much as the recovery will have been heartening, led by a 110-run stand from Vettori and Brendon McCullum, it was needed because of familiar failings. Previous tours of South Africa have been highlighted by the inability of New Zealand's top-order to pull its weight, and this one has started no differently.

Their latest opening combination - Michael Papps and Craig Cumming - made 19 in the first 10 overs before Papps fell to Ethy Mbhalati and thereafter wickets went steadily. Stephen Fleming, after five fours and a six, edged to the wicketkeeper and Mbhalati added a third by ending Scott Styris' stodgy 114-ball 29. When Jacob Oram also headed back to the pavilion nine balls later New Zealand were struggling to reach 200.

Finally their fortunes began to change as McCullum and Vettori led a typically forthright fightback. Their 110-run stand took 21 overs as scoring became easier, especially against the offspin of Thandi Tshabalala who leaked runs at nearly five an over.

Lonwabo Tsotsobe, the highly rated 23-year-old left-arm seamer, struck back to have McCullum caught-and-bowled, but Vettori found another able partner in Shane Bond. The pair added a further 57 until Yusuf Abdullah wrapped up the tail. Vettori was ninth out after 118 balls and although he missed out on his century, his innings meant New Zealand's position was brighter than had appeared likely.