Cricket: New Zealand start long road to credibility

By Daniel Richardson

New Zealand's Kyle Mills celebrates with Martin Guptill of New Zealand. Photo / AP.
New Zealand's Kyle Mills celebrates with Martin Guptill of New Zealand. Photo / AP.

It might take a while for them to be convinced, but New Zealand cricket fans have been given a glimmer of hope that the Black Caps can compete with England when they tour here next month.

New Zealand's 27-run victory over South Africa in Kimberley this morning gave them a 2-0 lead in the three-match ODI series. It was their first series win in the Republic in any form of the game and was as unexpected as it was meritorious.

New Zealand supporters shouldn't get carried away.

It was, of course, only three weeks ago that the test side were rolled for 45 in Cape Town on their way to an innings defeat, but their efforts in the one-day arena have shown there is fight in the group.

England still present a massive challenge, especially in the tests, where they are ranked No 2 in the world, but the New Zealanders are a chance against most teams in limited overs cricket.

And their confidence will be boosted further should they complete a rare clean sweep of the ODI series in South Africa in the final match on Saturday morning (NZT).

New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum lauded the performance of his side today, who produced their victory on the back of a masterful 145 not out from Kane Williamson and some dynamic feilding.

"I think very few teams ever play a perfect game so I think it's important to recognise that games and scores are often made up of a couple of individuals performing well and a few guys chipping in around them," McCullum said.

"So I think that's what we saw today - an amazing innings from Kane - but I think the partnership that him and Grant [Elliott] were able to manufacture really allowed us to give us a good launching pad and a couple of us chipped in towards at the end as well.

"So there are some areas to work on, definitely, but let's not underplay what we've just achieved as well. I think it's a fantastic effort and, yes, we want to keep improving as a team, but we are pretty pleased with what we've achieved so far."

The recalled Elliott, who seemed about the sixth cab off the rank to even get a game before a host of injuries struck the New Zealand squad during the past month, contributed a vital 48 as he and Williamson added 127 for the third wicket.

Their stand and a few late boundaries from Nathan McCullum (19) and Kyle Mills (15 not out) ensured New Zealand made it through to 279-8.

South Africa's top order were cruising at 167-1 before James Franklin and Brendon McCullum combined to run out opener Graeme Smith for 66.

Smith's dismissal began a dramatic slide for the home side who lost wickets at regular intervals as the Kiwis fielded like demons and produced a world-record equalling five run-outs.

Eventually, young all-rounder Jimmy Neesham delivered the knockout punch when he bowled Lonwabo Tsotsobe to wrap up the game and series and the New Zealand players ran from all corners of the ground to embrace each other.

While the win has given the side some much-needed credibility following their woeful test performances it has glossed over some alarming form slumps by their senior players.

Since his scintillating century in the second Twenty20 match of the tour, Martin Guptill has produced scores of 24, 1, 0, 1, 48, 0, and 0 across the varying forms of the game.

McCullum is another who is struggling and has notched only one half century in his past 11 international innings.

But for now, at least, it's time to celebrate and the New Zealand cricket side hasn't done much of that recently.

- APNZ

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