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Cricket: A little bit of chat inspired unlikeliest of wins

New Zealand's prospects of a win in 1985 looked minimal when Lance Cairns suffered a sickening blow to the head from a Wasim Akram bouncer. Photo / ODT
New Zealand's prospects of a win in 1985 looked minimal when Lance Cairns suffered a sickening blow to the head from a Wasim Akram bouncer. Photo / ODT

Transport yourself back, if you are of a suitable vintage, to what you were doing on Thursday, February 14, 1985.

Jeremy Coney and Ewen Chatfield will remember what they were doing.

Coney made his second test century (111no) and Chatfield his highest test score (21no) in a 50-run partnership as New Zealand chased their then-highest fourth innings total of 278 to beat Pakistan by two wickets.

If you were at Carisbrook in Dunedin, it's unlikely you would have moved far from your seat during one of the most gripping afternoons in the country's cricketing history.

Even an Invercargill-bound train had an unscheduled 10-minute stop to capture history unfolding from across the tracks.

That summer's day 31 years ago marked the last time New Zealand won a series against Pakistan, taking it 2-0. The only other win in 21 attempts came 1-0 on the Subcontinent in 1969-70, courtesy of a five-wicket victory at Lahore.

Kane Williamson's side, despite recent defeats in South Africa and India, are on the cusp of breaking the drought against the world's second-ranked test side at Seddon Park over the next three days if they can secure a draw or win.

Coney and Chatfield's achievement marked a compelling time in New Zealand cricket as the 1980s side neared their pomp. There was self-belief, despite crumbling to 23-4 in the second innings.

An 18-year-old Wasim Akram, in his second test, was the chief protagonist with man-of-the-match figures of 10-128.

Martin Crowe and Coney guided New Zealand to 114 without further loss at stumps on the fourth day, eventually putting on 157 for the fifth wicket. When the helmetless Lance Cairns was felled by Wasim - who umpire Fred Goodall warned for his short-pitched deliveries in the last over before tea - the score was 217-7.

That was effectively eight, given that Cairns' concussion saw him hospital-bound post-test. Brendon Bracewell exited at 228, leaving Chatfield and Coney to eke out the remaining runs. Coney faced 48 balls and Chatfield 84. They ran 43 singles before Coney clipped the final two behind square off Tahir Naqqash.

"[At tea] I was a nervous wreck," Chatfield wrote in Chats, his autobiography. "I had a cup of tea but I was shaking so much, half of it ended up on the floor. It didn't help to see Lance lying down in the dressing room and clearly incapable of batting."

This response came from a man who, on debut against England in 1975, had technically died when a Peter Lever ball hit him on the temple. Chatfield's heart stopped and he swallowed his tongue. Only mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and a heart massage by England physiotherapist Bernard Thomas saved his life.

"We were able to reject all the unnecessary and batting returned to survival instinct," Coney said in relation to the chase in his book The Playing Mantis.

Coney was dropped on 97 by wicketkeeper Anil Dalpat in the first over after tea. The duo grafted from there.

"After a while, he [Chatfield] came down the pitch," Coney said. "I think it was after the glorious four he played through mid-wicket, and he said to me: 'I've been shielding you from the strike for long enough'.

"He'd given everything. His skill, his experience, his heart and his soul. No question of this man's commitment. Even the roller that they start when the No 11 goes in to bat had run out of petrol and was cheering him on."

For a schoolboy, the raro and gingernuts tasted good that afternoon as TVNZ disrupted scheduling to beam live coverage into New Zealand homes.

Another generation of Kiwi fans might get to repeat the dose this week.

- NZ Herald

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