Stephen Paul Fleming
April 01, 1973, Christchurch, Canterbury
Left hand bat
Top order batsman
Graceful and determined, Stephen Fleming will go down as his country's most successful captain and one of their best batsman after an international career that spanned 15 years. He owns a series of records, including the first New Zealander to pass 7000 Test runs, a landmark reached during his final series against England in 2008. During his last innings, in Napier, he did just enough to lift his career average over 40. Nine Test centuries is a poor return for such a talent, but Fleming was worth more than his statistics.
A stint with Middlesex in 2001 laid the foundations for a successful re-evaluation of his batting methods where the inability to convert half-centuries to centuries did no justice to his quality. But after a breakout innings of 134 not out to steer New Zealand to a classy World Cup victory over South Africa, along with another spell in county cricket, with Yorkshire, Fleming confirmed his greater batting consistency with a career-highest 274 not out against Sri Lanka in the first Test of their 2003 series. He followed that with an equally impressive 192 at Hamilton against Pakistan later that year and was named New Zealand's cricketer of the year in 2004.
The date 26 October, 2004 will remain in Fleming's memory, as he gained three New Zealand Test records in facing the Bangladesh attack at Chittagong. Firstly, his 87th Test earned him the record for most caps won by a New Zealander and, in striding to the crease for the 150th time, this was the greatest number of Test innings for New Zealand. And, as he moved to 81, in an innings where he would strike 202, he surpassed Martin Crowe's record aggregate of 5444 runs in Tests for New Zealand. He launched his first book, Balance of Power in December 2004 and, in the following season, captained Nottinghamshire to their first county title since 1987. He had a benign tumour removed from his face in December 2005, during Australia's one-day tour of New Zealand.
The following May he made his 100th Test appearance, against South Africa - appropriately at Centurion - although failed to mark the occasion with an innings of substance. A wonderful 262 followed at Cape Town but New Zealand were unable to win the match. The World Cup in the West Indies was Fleming's fourth as a player and third as captain and he led New Zealand to another semi-final. That was his final act as one-day skipper, though, as he announced he was standing down from that half of his role but wanted to continue leading the Test side. He spent the off-season playing at Nottinghamshire and dodging questions about whether he would join the Indian Cricket League. In September he announced he would stay on as a New Zealand Test player but retired from ODIs, and at the same time was relieved of the Test captaincy after a decade in charge, in favour of Daniel Vettori. However, after being tempted by the Indian Premier League he announced his international retirement and the series against England was his last.
Will Luke March 2008
Batting & Fielding
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