Mark Richardson 's Opinion

Mark Richardson is a former Black Cap and current columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Mark Richardson: Top order's graft key to victory

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The bowling and fielding will be lauded for this wonderful upset victory but don't forget the batting. It was what we'd heard was the plan - get to 30 overs no more than three down.

So I doff my cap to Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor, who put on 114 for the third wicket. Surely, after the two openers went in soft fashion, the wheels would have felt awfully wobbly once more. In one-day cricket that feeling of 'here we go again' is one of the most destructive in the game.

But Ryder and Taylor did a sterling job. Yes, I know it was heavily on the cautious side but what other option did they have? If the middle order from five down had been exposed, doubt would have once more festered throughout the batting effort.

These two did exactly what John Wright has been asking of his batsmen for some time - a bit of old school method. By 30 overs, a platform had been well and truly set and it meant everyone could play with mental freedom from that point on.

Admittedly they didn't go on to a huge total, but they went on to a winning total because the work had been done and small run-a-ball efforts at the end actually counted for something in those conditions.

The approach shown in the first third of this game will in the future pay more dividends on average than the previous approaches. In this case in particular, the ends justifies the means.

Ryder and Taylor's partnership showed courage, application and what I liked most: they stuck to a game plan for a decent length of time. That showed progress. As did Kane Williamson and credit where it is due. I questioned his right to be in this team right now but he made a telling contribution.

Now the challenge for this team is to follow up with another controlled display; that would really show progress.

No one questions what this New Zealand team is capable of, because they do what we saw on Friday night every so often - but just not regularly enough.

I'm hoping the penny is starting to drop for this group of players and just maybe it is gathering enough momentum to drop all the way for three games straight. Just two games in a row would mean a World Cup finish higher than ever before and a desperately needed shot in the arm for cricket in this country.

As a side issue, I loved the niggle that appeared in this game - a non-player in Kyle Mills getting involved. It's risky being outwardly aggressive in a team that is under-performing, but I believe that anger often gets the best out of the characters in this team.

It's not hard to make this competitive lot angry. So maybe Alan Donald's reported team address when he told them what South Africa would think of them was the master stroke.

- Herald on Sunday

Mark Richardson

Mark Richardson is a former Black Cap and current columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Mark Hunter Richardson represented New Zealand in 38 Tests from 2000-2004 racking up an impressive 2,776 runs with an average of 44.7. The former Black Cap began his cricketing career as a left-arm spinner but soon realised that his talents lay with the bat. The transition from ball to bat was seamless and Richardson soon made his international debut against Zimbabwe at the age of 29. Known as a stalwart opener, Richardson’s intelligent style of hard-grind batting came at the perfect time for New Zealand cricket and provided much-needed stability for the Black Caps. Apart from being an excellent opening batsman, Mark Richardson was well-known among fans and team mates for his humorous off-pitch antics and friendly interactions with the famous Beige Brigade, with whom he formed a strong relationship. An excellent cricketer with a personable quality, Richardson once remarked that his retiring first-class average was only different to that of Sir Donald Bradman by a decimal point. Mark Richardson retired from all forms of the game in 2004 and continues to write an insightful, thought-provoking column for the New Zealand Herald.

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