Cricket / Second Test: Former captain reborn

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WHEN Martin Crowe came in yesterday at the fall of the second wicket - why not at the fall of the first? - his job was not only to save New Zealand but also to rebuild his own reputation, which, late in the 1980s, had him among the best two or three batsmen in the world.

Since then, New Zealand's best side in history disintegrated as old age took its toll, Crowe assumed the captaincy uneasily, his injured knee became a huge handicap and he appeared to be haunted by the fear of failure.

At the end of last year, his knee caused him to leave the tour of Australia after one Test, then to sit out series at home against Pakistan and India.

He decided to give up the captaincy and to concentrate on batting and that may have been the decisive factor in his hundred at Lord's.

On this tour, we have seen only glimpses of the Crowe we knew, of the batsman who could conjure glorious strokes out of thin air and dismiss the best attacks in the matter of an hour or so.

Injury, personal problems and perhaps a mistaken view that he could turn on his best form at will, all affected him.

He came out nervously yesterday; a great batsman searching for his greatness. Those first few runs were as much a relief for those watching as they were for him. With them came confidence, the footwork became swifter and more certain and the pick-up and follow- through of his bat again became objects of beauty.

It may have been the magic of Lord's or the dire necessity of New Zealand's situation or his own personal predicament which acted as the spark. Whatever it was, Crowe's self-belief had returned and this innings should have provided him with the impetus to go on scoring centuries all round the world for New Zealand for some years to come.