3 Jul 2014

CORRESPONDENT - Stephen Hewson

10:18 am on 3 July 2014

The cricketing gods, it would seem, have no intention of allowing the Black Caps to get ideas above their station.

Just when they should been enjoying their day in the sun in the Caribbean, basking in some well deserved recognition for their series win over the West Indies, along comes "My name is Lou Vincent and I am a cheat".

Lou Vincent - now playing with a straight bat.

Lou Vincent - now playing with a straight bat. Photo: AFP

Vincent's match-fixing mea culpa couldn't have come at a worse time for the Black Caps, with their rare series win over the West Indies being relegated down in the news pecking order.

Vincent, though while apologising to his former team-mates for his actions, has done them no favours.

It's a situation Brendon McCullum is all too familiar with.

In February, when McCullum scored a double century against India in the first test win in Auckland, he was upstaged by Jesse Ryder and Doug Bracewell when it was revealed they'd been out drinking the night before the game.

The stealing of the limelight from McCullum didn't go down well with the team and there's still plenty of resentment over the impact of Ryder and Bracewell's antics.

Lou Vincent may have come clean and offered a public apology, but it certainly didn't earn him any leniency.

His life ban means, for example, if his child plays cricket he can't turn up to his local cricket ground and watch them play junior club cricket.

Cricket officialdom has come down heavily on Vincent, but the reality is he is a pawn in all this. He's not the ringmaster, and the game's powerbrokers, the International Cricket Council (ICC), need to make sure Vincent is not the one that bears the brunt of the fallout.

Vincent said in his statement those who know him know that he's not stupid, but neither is he the brains behind all of this.

Match-fixing is a blight not only on cricket but on the entire sporting world and sports officials acknowledge it's a much greater threat than the likes of performance-enhancing drugs.

So, if the ICC is serious about tackling the problem, simply punishing Vincent cannot be the end of this saga.

The England and Wales Cricket Board's (ECB) decision to announce the life ban would indicate London Metropolitan police do not intend pressing criminal charges over the match-fixing which Vincent has owned up to while playing county cricket for Sussex between 2008-2011.

Vincent must count himself fortunate, given the fate of the three Pakistani cricketers who served prison sentences after being found guilty of match-fixing while playing test cricket against England a couple of years back. And one assumes for now he'd get to keep any money he made.

Vincent might be the first New Zealander to be found guilty of match-fixing for a financial gain, but we'd be naive to think he's the only one, and among those who follow the game closely there's certainly a feeling this is far from over.

But back to the cricket. The series win over the West Indies must be recognised for several reasons.

B J Watling stumps West Indies batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the 3rd test win in Barbados.

B J Watling stumps West Indies batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the 3rd test win in Barbados. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

It was the side's third straight series win after victories over India and the West Indies in New Zealand over the summer.

It was just the second ever series win for New Zealand in the Carribean.

The Barbados win was also just the second time in test history the Black Caps had won a test match after trailing on the first innings.

This tour was also notable for the performances of the younger brigade. The side didn't rely on veterans like Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor.

Batsman Kane Williamson was named player of the series. He rescued the New Zealand second innings in that final test making his highest test score of 161 not out and finished the series with an average of over 80.

BJ Watling is now a genuine international quality wicketkeeper. There is no longer the look of him being a batsman who's there as a makeshift stopper.

On top of that, his batting hasn't suffered as a result, and he again played crucial roles with the bat during the series.

All-rounder Jimmy Neesham continued his fine form with bat and offspinner Mark Craig looked at home on the international scene despite it being his debut series.

While the opening partnership remains a worry Tom Latham put his hand up to retain a place at the top of hte order scoring three half centuries.

For the Black Caps to become a complete side they need to resolve the opening partnership issues.

In their last 13 innings the openers have failed to have a 50 run opening stand while in the six test innings in the Carribean the opening partnership never reached 20.

It's not a point coach Mike Hesson wanted to dwell on in the wake of the series win but if the Black Caps are to move up the international rankings from the seventh place, it's an issue that will have to be resolved sooner rather than later.

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