New Zealand in 2005

2005 was a year of fluctuating fortunes for New Zealand. They had a number of comfortable wins, but a larger number of disappointing and sometimes embarrassing defeats.

The year started well, with a comfortable series win over the bits and pieces World XI that was hastily assembled for a Tsunami Relief series after Sri Lanka had been forced to postpone their tour and return home. Highlights of the series included a phenomenal century in Christchurch by Stephen Fleming, one which included 12 sixes, and a successful return to the Black Caps for dual international Jeff Wilson, who bowled well throughout the series and took regular wickets, particularly on the dubious pitch in Hamilton. However, his triumphant return was shortlived.

After a superb 1-1 draw in the inaugural Chappell-Hadlee series in December, Australia’s 5 match ODI series in New Zealand in February was expected to be a thrilling contest. The first match lived up to the expectations, with New Zealand only narrowly missing in their chase in the first match in Wellington. But for the remainder of the series, and for the test series that followed, it was all one-way traffic as Australia won 5-0 and 2-0 with a rain-affected draw in the test series.

Sri Lanka returned in April to play the test leg of their New Zealand tour, a series that was dominated by New Zealand. Chris Martin bowled a memorable spell in which he took six wickets, Hamish Marshall continued his superb start to his test career with his second test century, and Lou Vincent finally cemented his spot in the team with a marvellous 224 in Wellington.

Long before the New Zealanders touched down in Harare for the two match test series and triangular tournament which also included India, the tour was talked about at great length. Many wanted the tour to be cancelled on political grounds, and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said she “wouldn’t be seen dead” there, but the tour went ahead. The tests were an embarrassment for the home team, losing inside three days in both matches. Daniel Vettori was the star, taking a considerable haul of wickets and also scoring a century at better than a run a ball to boot.

The ODI tournament was slightly more interesting. Again Zimbabwe were thoroughly outclassed, but it provided some exciting contests between New Zealand and India, and some top-class performances by New Zealand players. The record for highest score by a New Zealand batsman in ODIs was broken by Lou Vincent’s 172 in an absolute demolition of Zimbabwe, and Shane Bond celebrated his return to fitness, one which proved to be temporary, with six wickets against India. In the end, New Zealand won the final thanks to a match-winning hundred by Nathan Astle, his fifteenth in ODI cricket.

After the success in Zimbabwe, there was optimism as the team headed to South Africa for a 5 match ODI series. The confidence only grew with a comfortable win in the Twenty20 match, but once the serious cricket began it was quickly shattered. Although they were close matches, New Zealand failed to win a single match in the series. Seeing the team go so close to winning only to fail at the final hurdle, spectacularly so at the hands of Justin Kemp at Port Elizabeth, was heart-breaking for NZ supporters. However, there were a few positives to be taken from an overall disappointing series. Kyle Mills finally came of age at international level and started to bowl consistently well, and Lou Vincent scored two very good half-centuries.

The build-up to the second Chappell-Hadlee series in December couldn’t have been worse. There was the defeat in South Africa, a hamstring injury to Shane Bond on the eve of the first match which put him out of the series, and a cancer scare for captain Stephen Fleming, one which fortunately turned out to be a benign tumour. The first match in Auckland saw an easy win for a slightly below full-strength Australia, having left Glenn McGrath behind. Although there had been some promising signs in the first innings, the New Zealand batsmen capitulated, scoring an embarrassing 105 all out.

After that disaster, it could only get better. And that it did, with two of the most exciting matches between the two trans-Tasman rivals seen in recent years. The first was in Wellington, where Andrew Symonds guided Australia through to a massive score of 322, and considering New Zealand’s awful display just four days earlier, it seemed an absolute thrashing was on the cards. But Lou Vincent had other ideas, smashing 71 from just 49 balls to give New Zealand a rollicking start. And from there the chase continued at a good rate, with Chris Cairns, whose controversial dropping for the South Africa series will be discussed later, scoring 60 and Jacob Oram and Brendon McCullum both hitting quick scores in the 40s, and New Zealand looked likely to gain a surprise win, needing just 6 from the last over. But Michael Clarke produced a direct-hit at exactly the right time to run out McCullum, and when Kyle Mills was also run out later in the over New Zealand were all out for 320, 2 runs short.

The teams headed down to Christchurch for the final match of the series. It started well for New Zealand, with Adam Gilchrist out to Mills without a run on the board, but then the runs came again. This time the harshest on the bowlers was Mike Hussey, who scored a career best 88 not out from just 56 balls, and was responsible for seeing Australia score no fewer than 70 runs in the last 5 overs, lifting his ODI average to 150 in the process. Surely New Zealand couldn’t get that close to a score that big again? But yes, they could. Thanks mainly to a magnificent 101 by Scott Styris and a 25-ball unbeaten half century by McCullum, New Zealand got to the target of 332 with an over to spare. The win was the highest successful run chase in ODI history.

And on New Year’s Eve, the Sri Lanka ODI series postponed after the first ODI on Boxing day in 2004 resumed with the second match at Queenstown, a match which provided a successful end to the year for the New Zealand team. They restricted the visitors to a low total and, in a chase led by the two new boys Jamie How and Peter Fulton, strolled to an easy win.

A major talking point in the year for New Zealand was the exclusion of star all-rounder Chris Cairns from the squad to tour South Africa. Cairns, who in 2004 retired from test cricket, looked short of match fitness and performed poorly in the ODI tournament in South Africa and his exclusion was in a way a wake-up call to the veteran. And he responded, returning to the team for the Chappell-Hadlee series in much better form. Although his bowling remained below his best, he produced some vital innings in the series and once again secured his place in the short-term future.

Although the year was disappointing in terms of results, with only six wins in 19 ODIs after being in 3rd place at the start of the year in ODI cricket, there were many promising signs. Kyle Mills improved with every match in the second half of the year, Lou Vincent finally started consistently performing at the top level, Daniel Vettori enhanced his reputation as an all-rounder and also performed creditably as captain in Stephen Fleming’s absence, and Jamie How and particularly Peter Fulton performed superbly and provided some promising signs for 2006 and beyond.

Test Player of the Year 2005: Daniel Vettori
ODI Player of the Year 2005: Daniel Vettori
One to Watch in 2006: Peter Fulton

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