Mark Richardson: Test calamity sure to be a sore point

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Everyone associated with New Zealand cricket should be hurting after the Old Trafford test. Hurting more than most, and I'm sure he will be, should be Daniel Vettori.

Vettori should be mulling over the lost opportunity more than most; not just because he is the captain, nor because of his uncharacteristically sloppy batting dismissals but rather because he blew the opportunity to do something he has not done for 11 years/78 test matches - take five wickets or more in a test innings in a game that New Zealand has gone on to win (excluding Bangladesh). In slightly more subjective terms - bowl New Zealand to victory against meaningful opposition.

It's arguably a misleading statistic to raise because there are times a match-winning effort may not end with five or more wickets, just like a batsman's personal contribution that comes up short of a century can, at times, be the match decider. However, it is still a startling statistic that of the 15 times Vettori has taken five wickets or more in a test innings, New Zealand has won only on four occasions and three of those were against Bangladesh. The other more meaningful victory was Vettori's first test match five-wicket bag against Sri Lanka at Hamilton in 1997.

It's wrong to respond to this revelation by simply saying Vettori is not accomplishing his core responsibility of bowling his country to victory because there is so much more to Vettori's contribution to New Zealand cricket than simply taking wickets on the last day of a test match, important though that is.

There is no question of Vettori's quality, versatility and consistency as a test bowler.

His bowling in the first test match at Lord's when he took five for 69 in the first innings was superb and had an important influence on the game because it allowed New Zealand to achieve parity with England after the first innings; a huge confidence booster for the team.

He then combined devastatingly with Ian O'Brian in the first innings at Manchester and was responsible for what should have been an unassailable lead. But, and it's a big but, in keeping with the statistical trend New Zealand did not win.

What should hurt the most for Vettori right now is that, regardless of the third innings batting calamity, 296 was plenty of runs to play with on that Old Trafford pitch and it was all set up for him to win the match with his primary skill.

Vettori wants to lead through example and that last game was the perfect opportunity to do so. For years, Vettori has performed many roles with the ball for captain Stephen Fleming and it wasn't always simply to attack.

Fleming had trust in Vettori and no doubt Vettori trusts himself and will call upon himself to perform a multitude of roles. I'd like to see him perform the attacking match-winning one a little more often.

- Herald on Sunday

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