08 March 2015
Veteran Vettori shines on the Biggest Stage
Veteran spinner leads New Zealand to fifth straight win
Daniel Vettori became the first Kiwi and only the 12th bowler from any country to take 300 wickets.
At the time the veteran Black Caps spinner, who turned 36 in January, had not played a one-day international since June 2013, a Twenty20 International since September 2012, or a Test match since July 2012.
Concentrating on the only form of cricket he felt his body could handle - Twenty20 cricket – Vettori had not bowled more than four overs in a game for nine months.
But the allure of playing in a World Cup in New Zealand and fulfilling a dream held since he had watched the 1992 tournament as a 13-year-old was enough for Vettori to put his injury concerns aside.
His summer was spent on ensuring he would be fit to take the field come New Zealand’s Cup opener against Sri Lanka on February 14.
He returned to ODI cricket in late October before a surprise Test appearance in Dubai in November.
Looking back, it is difficult to picture this Black Caps campaign without their bearded and bespectacled spinner.
If he is finding the demands of bowling 10 overs in a match difficult, it is not showing.
Vettori has asserted himself in New Zealand’s five games to date, perfectly complementing the opening bowling feats of Tim Southee and Trent Boult.
He has 12 wickets in five matches at an economy rate of 3.00, while his best figures for the tournament, 4-18 off 10 over at an economy rate of 1.80, came on Sunday against Afghanistan.
Entering the match with 298 one-day international wickets under his belt, Vettori was brought on in the third over of the match to allow Boult and Southee to switch ends. His cameo provided an extra benefit; wicket No.299 in the form of Usman Ghani.
Nine overs later, he bowled Nawroz Mangal to bring up his 300th scalp.
In doing so, he became the first Kiwi and only the 12th bowler from any country to reach the milestone, joining the likes of Sri Lanka's Muthiah Muralidaran, Pakistan’s Wasim Akram and Glenn McGrath.
But arguably, his most influential performance for the tournament was at Eden Park against Australia, when he was brought on by skipper Brendon McCullum to halt the fast-flowing runs from the Australian top order.
That match brought wickets 297 and 298 through the key dismissals of Shane Watson and Steve Smith, as Vettori slowed Australia’s scoring and helped New Zealand to a one-wicket win.
Speaking before Sunday’s match, he summed up his role as such: “My role is to be complementary to our attacking bowlers... to tie up the other end," Vettori said.
While Vettori has his eyes on a bigger prize than 300 wickets – one that could be waiting for the Black Caps at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 29 if their current world-beating form continues – the spinner said he was pleased with the milestone.
“I suppose I went into the World Cup not really thinking about that that much,” Vettori said after Sunday’s match.
“I honestly didn't believe it would take this many wickets and this few of games, so it will be something nice to look back on.
“But I think we are caught up in the middle of the World Cup. There is an important game on Friday, and probably the most important game of our careers the following Saturday.
“So maybe in a month or so's time there will be a chance to look back on it.”
For 18 years, Vettori has been a crucial part of New Zealand cricket.
Since making his international debut in February 1997, Vettori has become his country’s most-capped Test and ODI player, has captained in all three formats and has taken 362 Test wickets.
Add to that 2213 ODI runs, six Test tons and 4531 ODI runs.
This is Vettori’s fourth World Cup appearance and the Black Caps’ best finishes during that time have been semi-final appearances in 2007 and 2011.
This time, enjoying the enthusiastic support of the home crowds in New Zealand – Vettori described the crowds at the Wellington and Auckland matches as “one of the best experiences I’ve had in New Zealand stadiums” – he will be determined to make sure the Black Caps are on the winning side come next week’s quarter-final in Wellington and in the semi-final in Auckland should it follow.
Given it would be asking rather a lot of his body to last another four years in the one-day game, Vettori will dearly want to see the Black Caps lift the World Cup trophy for the first time come the end of the month.
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