Canny Scots of ODI cricket

IAN SNOOK
Last updated 07:32 24/01/2013
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Kane Williamson was a star of New Zealand's series win over South Africa, after scoring 145 not out in the second game.

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OPINION: It's a scary thought, but no doubt true, that New Zealand cricket is the summer version of the Scottish rugby team in the winter code.

Taranaki cricket's supremo Kerry O'Neill offered this golden titbit with a big smile on his face, and he is a man with much knowledge and many views on this great game of ours.

In fact, the O'Neill Book of Quotes is one that every cricketer should try to get his hands on.

It certainly isn't a confidence builder. Since 1871, Scotland have only won the Grand Slam three times, and apart from a brief moment in 2010 when their ranking shot up to sixth, they tend to sit around 10 or below, and currently have the likes of Tonga and Samoa ahead of them. Moreover, it doesn't look like it will improve.

Apart from the All Blacks, whom they have never beaten, they have periodically accounted for all the major countries, which no doubt sends the nation in to a frenzy of excitement, before reality hits home soon after.

As well they have had outstanding individual players, with the likes of Sandy Carmichael, Andy Irvine, Gavin Hastings and Gordon Brown making any world XV, but to piece together a world-class team occurs about as often as the Black Caps can do the same. We know how they feel.

New Zealand's test record against the "Big Four" of South Africa, England, Australia and India is 21 wins and 113 losses with 96 draws, a winning percentage of 10. We are certainly the tiny cousin in the test arena although we did have a good decade in the 1980s with 17 victories on the big stage. One player can make a huge difference in cricket!

So if we are the Scotland of chess where patience, concentration and tactics are as important as the skill, what are we like at checkers, a much simpler and quicker variation of the game? With T20 internationals relatively new on the scene the one-day results give a better indication of where we might succeed.

The one major prize in the New Zealand cabinet is the ICC Champions Trophy from 2000, where New Zealand defeated India in the final with two balls to spare and Chris Cairns on 102 not out.

Cairns and Chris Harris had put on 122 for the seventh wicket when all had seemed lost, but because there is a definitive opening and ending with each innings, opposition teams tend to not get out of reach. This means that invariably we have a chance. In this case we took it.

There is no major country where we have won more than half the matches played, although England sit at 50 per cent and India at 42 per cent, but more importantly there is always a feeling of optimism before the start of any one-day international in the hope that "this will be our day".

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I guess that is similar to the Scottish supporters as they head off to the Calcutta Cup clash with England each year, hoping that this will be their day.

Of course, more often than not it isn't to be.

But wait, New Zealand have just won their first one-day series in South Africa, a country where they had only won a couple of previous games over all the years, and will head into game three looking for a 3-0 clean sweep of the series.

This is more like it. A happy bunch of cricketers all contributing in their own way and a fielding side that throw themselves around as we expect of them, in fact changing the course of the second ODI with the run out of Graeme Smith, which was to be followed by four more similar dismissals. I'm sure this created some whooping and cheering in New Zealand living rooms.

Just for now it feels like a Calcutta Cup victory - so let's enjoy the moment. History suggests that this might not happen again for a while.

Ian Snook is a former Taranaki and Central Districts captain. He is one of only four men to have played more than 100 games for Taranaki.

- Taranaki Daily News

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