'I'm fitter, stronger, and a smarter cricketer'
Returning to Test cricket after a 28-month layoff, Shane Bond was delighted with his performances in the two-Test series in Zimbabwe. He took 13 wickets at 9.23, including returns of 10 for 99 in the second Test at Bulawayo - his first ten-wicket haul - and in the process became the quickest among all New Zealand bowlers to get to 50 Test wickets. Bond achieved the mark in only his 12th match, beating Chris Martin's earlier record of 13. (Click here for Bond's Test stats.)
"That's what's driven me on, a few of those milestones I wanted to achieve," Bond told Radio Sport after the match. "I've just got to keep working hard and hopefully I can tick them off as I go along. I feel like I'm in better condition now. I'm fitter, stronger, and a smarter cricketer."
Bond expressed his surprise, though, at the number of wickets that came his way at Bulawayo. "I set myself high standards but you never think you're going to get a bag of wickets. I never gave up hope [during the injury layoff]. There were some really tough times, more mental than physical, but you've just got to work through them. All I wanted to do was be consistent and support the guys around me."
Stephen Fleming, the New Zealand captain, admitted that Bond's presence had made a huge difference to their attack. "We've gone through some series and kept our mouth shut, knowing we were missing possibly one of the greatest bowlers to play for New Zealand. He's worked very hard and come back well." Fleming himself had a reasonably good series with the bat, scoring two half-centuries. His 65 in the second Test took him past the 6000-run mark in Tests, making him the first New Zealander to achieve the feat.
New Zealand's next engagement is the one-day tri-series next week, involving Zimbabwe and India. However, Bond will have to wait seven months to play his next Test, when New Zealand host West Indies in March 2006.