Mark Richardson 's Opinion

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

Mark Richardson: Bond's fitness key to upsetting Aussies

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Have no doubts about it, had it not rained last Tuesday, the Black Caps would have cantered home in that run chase to beat Pakistan and won the series 2-1 - but don't let that fool you over where our cricket team is right now in tests.

Neither team distinguished themselves and did not appear worthy of bettering their current ICC test rankings of six and seven. To start moving up from our lowly No 7 position, a solid performance must be put in against Australia in March.

Is that likely based on what we have just seen?

A lot will depend on the fitness of Shane Bond, the late season form of the middle order and whether or not the two 50-run stands the openers put on was progress or just a reflection of the flat pitch.

Bond whacking them down at 150km/h was one of the highlights of this whole sporting year for me, in any code. I thought his express days were over and he would join the fast-medium pack but he certainly is not ready for that yet.

His speed, aggression and skill were paramount in the win in Dunedin and he completed the bowling unit in a way that gave it a synergy that has been missing for some time.

However, his subsequent injury was one of the letdowns of the year because we were then back to the usual lack of penetration until Iain O'Brien found pace and aggression in his swansong.

But he's now gone and with it goes our strike power if Bond does not return. Chris Martin is on the other side of the hill - honest as ever but not quite at the test match spearhead level any more.

Daryl Tuffey was impressive in that he appears to be very close to the good Tuffey of old and young Tim Southee is promising but not tearaway.

These three are fine bowlers but put Bond in the mix with them and we have a test quality unit. I like the look of a middle order of Ross Taylor, Jesse Ryder, Daniel Vettori and Brendon McCullum. But it must have a top three to set it up.

Yes, BJ Watling looked promising in his last knock but it was a one-day innings and his technique of getting to off stump and playing as much as possible is built around his limited overs play.

Will he be the answer on test pitches that offer the bowler more than McLean Park? Can Tim McIntosh sort out his footwork issues to be ready for an Aussie attack that will swing it back at him?

Martin Guptill is talented but all he has in the near future to find a test game is one-dayers and T20s.

- 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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