First Test Match

New Zealand v Pakistan

Don Cameron

At Hamilton, December 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 2003. Drawn. Toss: Pakistan.

When a team carefully stitches together a first innings of 563, victory or a dominating draw used to be considered the only possible outcomes. But cricket is changing: across the Tasman in Adelaide a week earlier, Australia had lost to India after scoring 556. And by the end of this Test, New Zealand were grateful for the bad light that confirmed the draw. If more than a day had not disappeared in drizzle and gloom they might well have lost.

Shortly before the start Shoaib Akhtar was forced to withdraw with a strained leg muscle, leaving Mohammad Sami as Pakistan's only sharp edge. Inzamam-ul-Haq still chose to bowl, perhaps thinking of the seaming Hamilton pitch of 2002-03 on which both India and New Zealand managed less than 100. But the watchful New Zealanders, having lost Vincent early, soon blunted what little menace bowling or pitch contained. It took a run-out, shortly after lunch, to remove Richardson and end his 101-run stand for the second wicket with Fleming.

From then on only Danish Kaneria, the leg-spinner, showed any bite, and the score mounted steadily. But though Fleming reached his century, his sixth in Tests, after an industrious four hours, he lost four partners after tea. And when Hart fell to the new ball early next morning the New Zealanders were sizing up a mildly unsatisfactory total of perhaps 350. Then came Vettori - on his record something of a regular tailender but in ambition a Test all-rounder. Now even Fleming slipped into the shadows as Vettori unfurled a range of strokes of the purest quality. The partnership was worth 125 when Fleming played across a straight ball and was lbw on 192, after eight hours' defiance. Shortly afterwards Vettori reached his maiden hundred, from 131 balls with 20 fours, despatched to all points of the compass. The ninth wicket added another 99, and he was unbeaten on 137 when the frustrated attack finally ended the innings at 563.

Pakistan worked solidly through the remaining session of the second day and on a gloomy, rain-shortened third, on which only 38.2 overs were possible. A delayed start on the fourth day left only 82 overs then too, but Tuffey's unflagging off-stump line gave New Zealand the edge and, at 285 for six, the follow-on still looked a possibility. Then a hero arrived in the shape of Moin Khan, a feisty wicket-keeper and a hardened battler, who savaged the bowling with a dazzling and sometimes impish range of strokes. Moin raced to a century in two hours, reaching the landmark with 4, 6, 4 off consecutive balls from Vettori, and also ended with 137. He found an unlikely lieutenant in Sami, who defended stolidly - scoring 25 in a seventhwicket stand of 152.

New Zealand began the last day 104 ahead and with a feeling that another delayed start - there was no play before lunch - was the last blow to their chances. They ended it shaken by a nerve-racking collapse. Sami, who was clocked at nearly 96mph, showed the benefits of pace on a true pitch. After five overs' warm-up, he had Vincent and Fleming caught in the same over with away-swingers. Styris fended to slip, Umar Gul took two in two balls and suddenly New Zealand were 42 for five and sliding. There were further signs of panic when McMillan ran himself out. However, rain had pinched too much time for a result. Sami took two more wickets but could not break Oram's gritty defence. He and Tuffey survived until accepting the light, leaving New Zealand 96 for eight - and a touch relieved.

Man of the Match: S. P. Fleming.

© John Wisden & Co