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Stung Kiwis look to SA for redemption

Stephen Fleming is casting an eager eye to February's Test tour by South Africa as a chance to redeem the Black Caps' Test fortunes.

india Updated: Dec 31, 2003 14:13 IST

New Zealand cricket captain Stephen Fleming was on Wednesday casting an eager eye to February's three-Test tour by South Africa as a chance to redeem the Black Caps' flagging Test fortunes after failing against Pakistan.

Pakistan's one-nil series win completed this week inflicted New Zealand's first Test loss in 18 months and nine matches, and pushed the Black Caps down from three to five in the world rankings.

"It doesn't get any worse than this, losing a two-Test series for losing one session," Fleming said of Shoaib Akhtar's match-deciding bowling onslaught early on the fourth day of the second Test.

It demonstrated the sometimes cruel nature of two-Test series, which irk the players but are also accepted as part of life with a packed international schedule dominated by the money-spinning one-day matches.

"You feel so empty because you've been in a position of strength for so long, and to give it away so quickly and so dramatically is hard to fathom as a team," Fleming said.

"I'd love another crack at Pakistan now. We understand it's two Tests and the pressure's on for every session and we didn't come through.

"With three tests we could go down 0-2 to Pakistan, but at least getting another shot would be great."

New Zealand's last four series have been two-test rubbers, winning 1-0 in the West Indies, 2-0 against India at home, then drawing 0-0 in both Sri Lanka and India.

Fleming agreed the two-test series wasn't always a fair reflection of the two sides, although they were on the right side of the ledger for their first series win in the Caribbean.

In both New Zealand's previous three-test series they won the final test to square the series 1-1 -- in Auckland against England in 2002 and in Hamilton against Pakistan the previous year.

While New Zealand hope to improve their rankings in the upcoming three-Test series against South Africa, they are also aware that when South Africa won a three-Test series 1-0 when they last toured in 1999.

South Africa are currently second in the rankings behind Australia.

New Zealand also have to fight a growing reputation for choking when well in front.

In both Tests against Pakistan New Zealand held healthy first innings leads only to be crippled in the second innings.

"It seems a crazy situation to have a problem about. We just get a little bit tense when we're ahead, about how to win a match and put ourselves out of reach." Fleming said.

That also happened at the World Cup against Australia, when they had the world champions 84 for seven but lost the match when they let them get away to 208 for nine.

First Published: Dec 31, 2003 11:06 IST