Cricket: Black Caps skipper's milestone day

By Richard Boock

Stephen Fleming has given his strongest hint yet that he wants to stay in the game for the long haul, possibly for even another World Cup campaign after the West Indies.

The man who will break yet another New Zealand record when he plays his 100th test on Saturday, against South Africa at Centurion, has given himself another three to four years at the top and says he's enjoying the game as much now as he ever has.

Already the highest capped New Zealand test cricketer, the 33-year-old father-of-one will on Saturday extend his lead on former players Sir Richard Hadlee (86), John Wright (82), Adam Parore (78) and Martin Crowe (77), and retain his bragging rights on team-mates Nathan Astle (76) and Daniel Vettori (67).

He said the milestone was one of the few statistics in the game that he genuinely coveted.

"I'm enjoying it, that's the main thing," he said. "I'm enjoying it more than ever. I just think this side will be judged on their performances over the next twelve months and I'm pretty excited about our potential right now.

"If we can just keep this crew together, I'd love to ice the cake over the last three or four years of my career."

The former Canterbury stalwart said while it seemed he'd been around an eternity, he was still finding the challenges refreshing. And he didn't subscribe to the theory that you couldn't teach an old dog new tricks.

He said far from feeling entrenched in his game, he was still expanding, and took heart from the fact that most of New Zealand's greatest batsmen enjoyed some of their best times in the twilight of their careers as they called on all their experience.

"I still think I've got a lot of good cricket ahead so I'm pretty excited to be reaching the mark at this stage, where I think I've still got some good years in front of me.

"There was a bit of talk from the boys at the awards dinner about the age gap, but when you look at what I do; I field at first slip and short cover and I bat. That's not going to cause a huge attrition rate, is it?

Fleming has a respectable batting average of 39.20 but says one of his personal goals over the next few seasons is to see if he can add on an extra .80 of a per cent to push him over the 40.00 mark - generally accepted as the threshold for New Zealand's best batsmen.

He reckoned the best part of reaching the 100-test milestone was that there was still time left to pursue other, less individual goals, such as taking a series off the South Africans.

"I reckon my game's still expanding," he said. "I scored a run-a-ball hundred the other day without raising a sweat. It was good fun. I'm still learning things, and I put that down a bit to the experience in English county cricket, where you're encouraged to play the game and to not get too caught up in the potential consequences."

Fleming noted that most of New Zealand's best batsmen improved with age, including former test players Glenn Turner, Bevan Congdon and Andrew Jones.

"One of the things I'm enjoying right now is the freedom of playing the game and scoring runs. For so long in my career it was a matter of getting through the new ball, and now it's a sort of reversal, where I'm trying to put pressure on the opposition."

He said the camp was hopeful that Shane Bond would be fit for the series opener, but that otherwise the selectors had a full squad to choose from.

South Africa, meanwhile, will also celebrate the 100-test milestone for two of their most established players - pace bowler Shaun Pollock and leading all-rounder Jacques Kallis.

Gary Kirsten brought up the mark before retiring two summers ago, and Pollock continues to be South Africa's answer to Glenn McGrath.

MATCH BY MATCH: FLEMING'S FULL RECORD

1993/94

16 & 92 runs v India at Hamilton
54 & 11 v England at Nottingham
41 & 39 v England at Lord's
14 & 11 v England at Manchester

1994/95

48 & 15 v South Africa at Johannesburg
4 & 31 v South Africa at Durban
79 & 53 v South Africa at Cape Town
56 & did not bat v West Indies at Christchurch
47 & 30 v West Indies at Wellington
17 & 27 v South Africa at Auckland
35 & 0 v Sri Lanka at Napier
66 & dnb v Sri Lanka at Dunedin

1995/96

16 & 41 v India at Bangalore
Team did not bat v India at Chennai
dnb v India at Cuttack
25 & 0 v Pakistan at Christchurch
49 & 21 v Zimbabwe at Hamilton
84 & 3 v Zimbabwe at Auckland
1 & 22 v West Indies at Bridgetown
39 & 56* v West Indies at St John's

1996/97

19 & 92 v Pakistan at Lahore
67 & 4 v Pakistan at Rawalpindi
129 & 9 v England at Auckland
1 & 0 v England at Wellington
62 & 11 v England at Christchurch
51 v Sri Lanka at Dunedin
2 & 59 v Sri Lanka at Hamilton

1997/98

52 & 27 v Zimbabwe at Harare
27 & 75 v Zimbabwe at Bulawayo
91 & 0 v Australia at Brisbane
10 & 4 v Australia at Perth
0 & 0 v Australia at Hobart
36 & dnb v Zimbabwe at Wellington
19 v Zimbabwe at Auckland
78 & 174* v Sri Lanka at Colombo
14 & 10 v Sri Lanka at Galle
78 & 3 v Sri Lanka at Colombo

1998/99

42 & 17 v India at Wellington
0 & 18 v India at Hamilton
27 & 25 v England at Birmingham
1 & 5* v England at Lord's
38 v England at Manchester
66* & 4 v England at The Oval

1999/00

43 & 73 v India at Chandigarh
2 & 31 v India at Kanpur
48 & 64* v India at Ahmedabad
66 & dnb v West Indies at Hamilton
67 v West Indies at Wellington
21 & 8 v Australia at Auckland
16 & 60 v Australia at Wellington
30 & 2 v Australia at Hamilton

2000/01

11 & 12 v Zimbabwe at Bulawayo
9 & dnb v Zimbabwe at Harare
57 & 99 v South Africa at Bloemfontein
14 & 8 v South Africa at Port Elizabeth
14 v South Africa at Johannesburg
22 & 55 v Zimbabwe at Wellington
86 & 5 v Pakistan at Auckland
32 & dnb v Pakistan at Christchurch
51* v Pakistan at Hamilton

2001/02

0 & 57 v Australia at Brisbane
71 v Australia at Hobart
105 & 4 v Australia at Perth
4 v Bangladesh at Hamilton
61 v Bangladesh at Wellington
12 & 48 v England at Christchurch
3 & 11 v England at Wellington
1 & 1 v England at Auckland
2 & 66 v Pakistan at Lahore
130 & 34 v West Indies at Bridgetown
6 & 5 v West Indies at St George's

2002/03

25 & dnb v India at Wellington
21 & 32 v India at Hamilton
274* & 69* v Sri Lanka at Colombo
0 & 33 v Sri Lanka at Kandy

2003/04

1 & 8 v India at Ahmedabad
30 v India at Chandigarh
192 & 0 v Pakistan at Hamilton
0 & 24 v Pakistan at Wellington
27 & dnb v South Africa at Hamilton
4 & 31* v South Africa at Auckland
30 & 9 v South Africa at Wellington
34 & 4 v England at Lord's
97 & 11 v England at Leeds
117 & 45 v England at Nottingham

2004/05

29 v Bangladesh at Dhaka
202 v Bangladesh at Chittagong
0 & 11 v Australia at Brisbane
83 & 3 v Australia at Adelaide
18 & 17 v Australia at Christchurch
0 & 1 v Australia at Wellington
65 & 3 v Australia at Auckland
16 & 41 v Sri Lanka at Napier
88 v Sri Lanka at Wellington

2005/06

73 v Zimbabwe at Harare
65 v Zimbabwe at Bulawayo
14 & 33 v West Indies at Auckland
97 & dnb v West Indies at Wellington
tdnb v West Indies at Napier

Tests 99, runs 6194.

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