Fleming crushes World XI with a 54-ball century

New Zealand 160 for 1 (Fleming 106) beat FICA World XI 158 (Hick 44) by 9 wickets

Brilliant hitting by Stephen Fleming took New Zealand to a resounding victory by nine wickets over the FICA World XI at Jade Stadium in Christchurch with nearly 34 overs to spare. Fleming went on a one-man wrecking mission as he raced to a century off 54 balls, with his last 50 runs coming in ust 19 deliveries. He struck seven sixes off Muttiah Muralitharan to bring up New Zealand's 100 in only the 12th over.

Fleming saw plenty of Muralitharan during his innings of 274 in the last Test series played between New Zealand and Sri Lanka in 2003. He showed Murali no mercy here , playing a large part in his sorry figures of 0 for 57 in only 3.1 overs.

Fleming's batting reached the heights it did during his innings of 134 against South Africa in the 2003 World Cup. He reached his century with nine sixes and nine fours, and hit one more four before holing out to Craig Spearman for 106. Such was his dominance that Nathan Astle seemed a passenger with his unbeaten 36, which came at almost a run a ball.

The damage was done earlier, when Daryl Tuffey and Kyle Mills scythed through the World XI's top order after Shane Warne had chosen to bat first. Both Tuffey and Mills took two wickets apiece as the World XI slumped to 20 for 4. But Jonty Rhodes, out of cricket since September 2003, and Graeme Hick, who hadn't played since the end of the last English season, effected a mini-recovery. They added 79, with Rhodes scoring 36 and Hick 44. Warne hit out for 26 as well, but after the fast bowlers did the damage at the top, Daniel Vettori swept through the lower order to take 3 for 33 to dismiss the World XI for 158 in 39.3 overs.

Tuffey took 2 for 25 and Mills 2 for 30. There was a special cheer when Jeff Wilson, a double international, took Hick's wicket to end with 1 for 27 off seven overs, his first wicket at this level since 1993.

Off the field, much of the attention centred around the good cause which the match was supporting - to raise funds for the tsunami victims in South East Asia. The takings from the game came to $NZ506,233, and it supplemented a sum of $NZ700,000 that had already been pledged.

The only sour note was provided by the arrest of five people for drunk and disorderly behaviour, and another spectator - also inebriated - trying to run off with a collection bucket. Those around him caught him and handed him over to the police.

The second match will be played in Wellington on Monday, with the final game to follow in Hamilton two days later.

Lynn McConnell is a freelance journalist in New Zealand.