Thursday, February 14, 2008

Five of Fleming's best

Stephen Fleming's tenacious 274 in Colombo in 2003 made it hard to believe he was ever accused of lacking concentration...

116* v Australia, Melbourne, 1997-98

New Zealand's only win on this tour of Australia came as they overhauled the hosts' 251 in a one-dayer at the MCG. An under-strength Australia attack still managed to have New Zealand at 3 for 42 and by that stage the bookmakers had the visitors at 20 to 1. Things hadn't improved much as they strolled past 100 in the 30th over but Fleming gradually reeled in the target - he only hit eight fours in the innings - and finished unbeaten on a superbly-paced 116. It was one of many big knocks Fleming would play in come-from-behind victories.

174* v Sri Lanka, Colombo, 1998
Before this match, it was sometimes said that Fleming could not concentrate for long periods. That trend looked set to continue when he absent-mindedly strolled to the crease without his box and had to rush back to retrieve it. A lazy shot brought his dismissal for 78 but in his second innings he displayed a rarely-seen resolve, batting for nearly eight hours and setting up a 167-run victory. It was Fleming's second Test century and New Zealand hoped it would be his turning point. As it turned out, Fleming didn't reach triple-figures again in a Test for nearly four years.

134* v South Africa, Johannesburg, 2003
This was a match New Zealand simply had to win. They had lost their World Cup opener to Sri Lanka and were about to give up a forfeit to Kenya because of security concerns. Another loss and they might not reach the Super Sixes. The home side piled on 306 but Fleming was not giving in. Wisden called his 134 an innings of "graceful power" and after rain and electrical failure shortened the match, he guided New Zealand to their revised target with a four off Allan Donald. It was Fleming's fourth century in 192 ODIs and it gave his team their first limited-overs win in South Africa.

274* v Sri Lanka, Colombo, 2003
Fleming's tenacious performance in this match made it hard to believe he was ever accused of lacking concentration. He batted for nearly 11 hours to register an unbeaten 274 - his highest score in Tests - and his unselfish declaration left the door open for a result. But Sri Lanka refused to play ball, batting so long that a draw became inevitable. Fleming added 69 not out in the second innings and was on the field in searing heat for all but the first 44 minutes of the match.

262 v South Africa, Cape Town, 2005-06

With his side down 1-0, Fleming lost the toss in the second Test and New Zealand were sent in on a dreary day. James Franklin made his maiden century but Fleming was the star, racking up 262 and becoming the first New Zealander to score three Test double-centuries. He batted positively - his strike rate was 61 - but the home side's hefty reply was slower and the match petered out to a draw.