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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 21:17 GMT

Innovation key to Black Caps win
By Thrasy Petropoulos
BBC Sport in Port Elizabeth

First it was the off-spinner opening the innings, then it was the middle-order batsman sent in as pinch-hitter, and now it is the deadly relay throw.

New Zealand, the great innovators of past World Cups, have struck again with a scheme that could become a major talking point of the tournament should they progress.

There is nothing knew in the relay throw, a tactic introduced to cricket in Australia where big grounds make it difficult for fielders to reach the stumps from the boundary.

The innovation here is that New Zealand were playing the West Indies at a small venue - St George's Park, in Port Elizabeth - and that it was a deliberate ploy honed through practice.

And how it worked.

Brian Lara, fresh from a century in Cape Town, tucked Andre Adams off his toes and set off for his first runs.

Off, too, went Lou Vincent towards the midwicket boundary in pursuit of the ball.

The slide when he reached it was predictable enough but as Lara set off for a third run Vincent played his ace.

The use of relay fielding by New Zealand proved successful against the West Indies - and the ploy is likely to be used again.
We believe it's quicker and more accurate
NZ captain Stephen Fleming on relay fielding

Low and flat, he threw in to Chris Cairns who had moved to square leg.

Cairns took the ball and, with deadeye accuracy, threw down the one visible stump.

The umpire did not even bother to refer to a television reply to send Lara on his way.

"That was our first fish and it's a pretty big fish to fry," Kiwi captain Stephen Fleming said afterwards.

It was clear, too, that the West Indies players in the dressing room were equally taken aback.

As Carl Hooper commented later: "Relays are useful on big Australian grounds, but you don't expect to see the tactic on small grounds like this one."

"The guys have got the ability to throw in from the boundary but we believe it's quicker and more accurate," explained Fleming.

"It also creates confusion.

"We're very happy with the work we've done. We know when and how to use it. Today it won us the match."

And Fleming was not finished there.

He was also able to gloat over the promotion of Daniel Vettori - but not to pinch-hit as Mark Greatbatch did so effectively a decade or so ago.

Vettori's laboured 13 from 25 balls was explained by Fleming as a means of protecting Nathan Astle in the opening overs.

"Nathan is susceptible in the first five overs, as a lot of batsmen are," he said.

"But when he gets through those first overs quite often he wins the game for us.

"I think it was successful (Astle top-scored with 46) but South Africa come with different challenges. They are seamer-dominated and we have to assess the conditions at the Wanderers."

So, after Dipak Patel and Greatbatch in 1992, we may in time be talking about the 2003 relay throw and the top-order protector.

Until the next innovation, that is.



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