Cricket: Injuries worry Fleming for first one-dayer

By Richard Boock

You could almost hear the dread in Stephen Fleming's voice this week as he spoke of the early casualty toll ahead tomorrow night's opening one-dayer against South Africa.

Almost five years ago to the day, Fleming's "invalids" were going down like flies in the one-day and test series in South Africa, prompting the New Zealand skipper to later describe the tour as one of his greatest disappointments.

The concerns on this occasion are apparently not so dire, but the news that Jacob Oram, Scott Styris and James Franklin are already carrying injuries evidently hasn't helped Fleming's temperament as he eyes the first ODI at Bloemfontein.

Oram's problem has been described as a "stiffness" in his back, a worrying sign given he's only recently recovered from a back complaint; Styris is said to be nursing a hamstring strain, and Franklin a bruised heel.

"Our bowling is a concern, with Franklin, Styris and Oram all probably underdone," Fleming said yesterday. "We want some selection dilemmas, we don't want injuries to play a part in this series; it happens too much to us."

By the midway point of the 2000 tour New Zealand had nine internationals out injured, including Chris Cairns and Daniel Vettori, and went in to the first test at Bloemfontein with an attack boasting just 15 caps.

Chris Martin and Brooke Walker made their debuts, Daryl Tuffey had played one test against Australia and Shayne O'Connor was effectively the veteran of the front-liners - with a total of just 14 caps.

New Zealand have never won an ODI series in South Africa and, in fact, posted their sole triumph in the republic when they beat Shaun Pollock's side at the Wanderers during the 2003 World Cup.

They went agonisingly close during the 2000 campaign, only losing the fifth and sixth ODIs after phenomenal batting assaults from Lance Klusener, but still ended up on the wrong side of a 5-0 series scoreline.

For all that, Fleming has been encouraged by New Zealand's two efforts against South Africa A in the buildup to the series, and said it was refreshing to go into the main contest with a couple of wins behind them.

New Zealand persevered by 19 runs in a Duckworth-Lewis revised result at Benoni last Friday, and two days later survived a blistering hot day's work at Potchefstroom to win by 103 runs.

"I'm satisfied with the warmups because we've often lost those, so it was nice to get some winning momentum," Fleming said. "They were not complete performances, but we played well in parts."

However, those parts will come under further scrutiny tomorrow as New Zealand search for the form that might bring an early break and the chance to push for a series win.

Apart from Fleming and Craig McMillan - who scored centuries in the warmup games - and James Marshall, no other New Zealand batsman has passed 50 yet, and the competition is unlikely to become easier.

Fleming, though, isn't feeling unduly fazed by the lack of runs from his top-order, reasoning that all his batsmen were experienced enough to to rise to the occasion.

"We're pleased that we've got a couple of hundreds on the board, we could so easily have gone through these games with none of us in any nick at all," he said.

"We do want the others to fire and they've got to do the work during the week to get up to speed. But they're good players, proven players, so there are no massive concerns, just quiet anxiety - which is good to have in your squad."


SOUTH AFRICA: Graeme Smith (c), Jacques Kallis, Nicky Boje, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Boeta Dippenaar, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Hall, Justin Kemp, Charl Langeveldt, Albie Morkel, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock, Ashwell Prince.

NEW ZEALAND: Stephen Fleming (c), Daniel Vettori, Andre Adams, Nathan Astle, Shane Bond, James Franklin, Hamish Marshall, James Marshall, Brendon McCullum, Craig McMillan, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Jeetan Patel, Scott Styris, Lou Vincent.


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