Richard Boock: You earn respect. They did.

By Richard Boock

Stephen Fleming's demand for more international respect might have gained at least a foothold yesterday after New Zealand became the first team to qualify for the semifinals of the Champions Trophy tournament in India.

Aggrieved at the lack of recognition his team received for their efforts on the international scene, Fleming yesterday went a long way towards backing up his statement with a man-of-the-match performance against Pakistan.

Fleming, who overtook Arjuna Ranatunga's record of 193 ODIs as skipper when the Pool B showdown began at Mohali, set up New Zealand's 51-run win with an intelligent 80, before pulling all the right strings in the field.

The win means New Zealand are now guaranteed of qualifying for next week's semifinals, and pressing for a repeat of their epic mini World Cup triumph at Nairobi six years previous.

Fleming yesterday hailed a grand team effort; the win coming on the back of some excellent batting from himself, Scott Styris, Jacob Oram and Brendon McCullum, and some demanding bowling from Kyle Mills, Oram, Vettori and - eventually - fast-bowler Shane Bond.

Fleming and Styris repaired the innings with a fourth-wicket stand worth 108 after New Zealand had slumped to 60 for three, and Styris continued on to share in a 52-run partnership with Oram.

New Zealand cashed in on the rare top-order stability, smashing 89 runs off the last eight overs, as Oram helped himself to 31 off 26 balls, and McCullum to 27 off just 13.

It has to be said that Pakistan's bowling and fielding were almost unbelievably poor during the final stanzas; the bowlers delivering only one attempted yorker in the last 10 overs, and the outfielders making numerous errors.

Fleming, who bemoaned the lack of respect for New Zealand before the start of the tournament, told Radio Sport yesterday that he couldn't be happier with the way the match progressed.

"I'm very proud of that performance," he said. "It was everything we could have asked for. They're a tough team to play, especially in India.

"We were able to withstand some pretty bowler-friendly conditions early on, launch a good partnership and get some momentum with our hitters later on.

"We had a few concerns midway through the defence, but brought the strike-bowlers back and they did the job."

Fleming said the influence of the middle-to-lower order only demonstrated how effectively New Zealand's batting line-up could be if one or two players at the top laid a platform for the more aggressive batsmen to come.

New Zealand had lost wickets early in the previous two games and, as a result, the lower order batsmen had been forced to play uncharacteristically subdued roles, in an effort to stabilise the innings.

"That's what Jake [Oram] and Brendon [McCullum] are capable of if the top-order does the job," said Fleming.

"Recently we haven't done that and the hitters have come in with too much work to do, but this was better. This is what we were looking for."

The New Zealand skipper was especially pleased with the contribution from Oram, given the Central Districts' all-rounder had only recently returned from a long-injury lay-off and had not featured with the bat in the first two games.

"He came in and set us up," he said.

"We were picking up wickets but probably weren't hitting the areas we wanted to; we were a little bit off the pace and our energy levels were down a bit as well.

"Jake came in and created some real pressure on the batsmen."

However, as delighted as he was with the win, Fleming acknowledged that the result had not come without its share of problems on the injury front, where Bond and Styris appeared the worst off.

Bond, after going for six an over in his first spell, bowled within himself in his second but still ended with a hamstring strain, while Styris played the second half of his innings with a runner after aggravating an injury that affected his back and hamstring.

The pair are joined in the sick bay by batsman Hamish Marshall, who was deemed unavailable yesterday because of a viral infection that had laid him low for the past two days.

"Bondy's really struggling within himself," said Fleming. "He's trying so hard to bowl well but he's battling for form in the sticky conditions and finding it hard to get it right.

"He found it tough with the new ball but came back well later in the innings and took some valuable wickets.

"Scotty's had more problems with his back and hamstring. With the heat and the physical pressure over a period of times it seems to cramp up.

"Whether he's pulled it again we'll just have to wait and see but it's got to be a bit of a concern. Hopefully he'll be okay."


HOW THEY'RE GOING

Stephen Fleming: Two wins, two man-of-the-match awards; what more can you say? Now the world's most capped ODI skipper, he averages 42.36 in games won by his side, against 26.46 when they lose.

Lou Vincent: Looked in solid form during the warm-up games but was then bowled in all three pool matches, the last two after attempting ambitious and slightly agricultural shots. Still has a massive hole in his front-foot technique.

Nathan Astle: Scratched out a defiant 42 in the loss to Sri Lanka but otherwise has underwhelmed. Has a habit of getting caught in a rut during tournament play so will be anxious to bounce back in semifinal.

Scott Styris: Started tournament under an injury cloud and will remain that way in lead-up to semifinal. Missed first game, didn't feature in second, but battled a hamstring aggravation to score plucky 86 against Pakistan.

Hamish Marshall: Biggest concern in New Zealand camp in terms of form. Missed out in first two encounters but missed yesterday's game, apparently because he was down with a virus. Has averaged 15.77 in past 20 innings.

Peter Fulton: Hasn't got underway in either of the games he played, against South Africa in the campaign opener, and against Pakistan yesterday - when he was unlucky to be adjudged lbw.

Jacob Oram: Ineffectual with the bat in first two games but proved more useful with the ball. Turned in his best performance of the tournament yesterday with a quickfire 31, followed by a demanding spell at the bowling crease.

Brendon McCullum: Has stood out as probably the best gloveman at the tournament, proving tidy in all three Pool outings. Played a typically incisive innings yesterday with the bat, striking 27 off just 13 balls.

Daniel Vettori: Only two wickets but crucial spells for New Zealand at the most problematic stage of the innings. Did well yesterday to retain control despite the ball being sodden by a heavy dew. Top-scored with the bat against Sri Lanka.

James Franklin: Unlucky to be dropped after conceding just 33 runs against South Africa. Was a touch flaky at the start of his spell yesterday but returned later in the innings to show better consistency.

Kyle Mills: The unsung hero of New Zealand's campaign so far, taking 6 wickets at 13.33, with a respectable economy rate of just 4.32. Took three for 18 against South Africa and was to the fore again yesterday with two for 38.

Shane Bond: Frustrated by back pain and now a hamstring problem, he missed the first game, bowled like a drain in the second but showed signs of returning to form yesterday after a strong second spell, ending with three for 45.

Jeetan Patel: Bowled superbly in the game against South Africa, mopping up the tail with three wickets in the space of three overs. Now a much-improved fieldsman, he'll push for Franklin's spot in the upcoming semi-final.

Mark Gillespie: Has not played, though showed some promise in the second warm-up game at Mumbai and from all accounts was relatively untroubled by the suffocating heat. Remains as strong cover for the established pacemen.

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