2005 in review

Persisting with the tried and true

New Zealand's year got off to a false start with the postponement of the Sri Lankan tour following the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami

A reinstated Chris Cairns could be the key to New Zealand's fortunes © Getty Images

New Zealand's year got off to a false start with the postponement of the Sri Lankan tour following the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami that struck in late December. Some would argue it never really got started at all.

Certainly Australia caught New Zealand sleeping when they toured in February and March. They whitewashed New Zealand 5-0 in the one-day internationals and would have done the same in the Tests if Wellington hadn't been enveloped in a shroud of fog, allowing the home side to escape with a draw in the second test.

The worst thing was that despite New Zealand's ongoing protestations that any team would suffer against the No 1 side in the world, it was clear that several of the Australian squad were woefully out of form themselves, a fact that would become manifestly clear just a couple of months later.

While the cricketing world became enthralled in the Ashes, New Zealand prepared for the flak it would receive, mainly internally, for its scheduled tour of Zimbabwe. Martin Snedden, New Zealand Cricket's chief executive, was intractable in his belief the tour must go on. The players all fell into line, despite the wishes of the government. But the Labour-led coalition put a spanner into New Zealand Cricket's working by denying the Zimbabweans visas for the return tour set down for early 2006.

Snedden reacted with disappointment, believing the decision severely effected New Zealand's chances of winning joint-hosting rights for the 2011 World Cup. The tour to Zimbabwe was nothing much to write home about. In fact, with just two news reporters covering the tour, one of whom found himself in a Zimbabwean jail at one point, there was very little writing home at all.

Shane Bond made his comeback and New Zealand won a low-key tri-series involving the home team and India. New Zealand also won the Test series 2-0, with the standard of cricket from Zimbabwe just plain embarrassing.

Buoyed, New Zealand set off for South Africa after a brief return home. Chris Cairns found himself on the outer, much to the shock of many. The decision, though probably warranted, backfired when Scott Styris and Jacob Oram had their tours badly affected by injury. New Zealand lost 4-0 during an ill-tempered series and questions started being asked about the selection methods of John Bracewell.

Stephen Fleming, the captain, returned home and promptly had a benign tumour removed from his neck. He persevered with the tried and true, but found his experienced campaigners like Nathan Astle and Craig McMillan had lost the `pop' in their bats. An inexperienced Australia team became the first holders of the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy, despite New Zealand mounting a successful world-record chase in the third match.

As New Zealand prepares to face Sri Lanka in the four matches it lost at the start of the year, they do so with a new face, Jamie How, an almost new face, Peter Fulton, and sans Astle and McMillan.

Rising star - Hamish Marshall was a revelation when Australia toured New Zealand at the beginning of 2005, scoring a magnificent century at Jade Stadium and repeating the dose against Sri Lanka at Napier.

Fading star - Marshall again. He has fallen as quickly as he rose, failing miserably on the tour to Zimbabwe, the tour to South Africa, the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy and the early rounds of the State Championship. Surely his star must rise again.

High point - Chasing down 322 to beat Australia in the third Chappell-Hadlee trophy match. Shame the second one just got away.

Low point - The tour to Zimbabwe. Bad cricket; an even worse situation.

What does 2006 hold - A relatively quiet cricket year, but an important one. The core of a relatively successful team is showing signs of creaking. Nathan Astle and Craig McMillan have just been dropped, while Chris Cairns suffered a similar fate before fighting his way back in recently.

New Zealand in 2005
Matches Won Lost Drawn/ NR
Tests 7 3 2 2
ODIs 18 5 12 1

Dylan Cleaver is senior sports writer of Herald on Sunday