Cricket: Vettori's promise of things to come

Click to follow
IT HAS been quite a year for Daniel Vettori. He no longer has to trail the tag of "teenage prodigy" around behind him. That has long gone. The youngest New Zealand player, at 18 years and 10 days, to make his Test debut while still a schoolboy has come through a hard 12 months, during which he has suffered the indignity of being dropped for his country's World Cup campaign.

He has emerged on the far side of this dark spell into the sunshine of an English summer where things have started to happen again for the left- arm spinner. Suddenly people are speaking of him not only as becoming the second New Zealand spinner after John Bracewell to reach 100 Test wickets, but perhaps of surpassing Sir Richard Hadlee's mark of 431, to become his country's leading Test wicket-taker.

This last is the opinion of the New Zealand coach, Steve Rixon, who was reported as saying before this match: "I picked out Daniel Vettori as a 17-year-old and now he is near 100 wickets and well-placed to become New Zealand's leading wicket-taker of all time."

There is no doubt that Vettori, still only 20 and already nudging the 70-wicket mark in his 23rd Test, looks the part with the ball. Having, with the previous delivery, applied a generous degree of rip to pass the Leicestershire man's bat, he then undid Darren Maddy with one that went straight on while the batsman shouldered arms. Later on, with his confidence rising by the over, he slipped an arm ball almost unnoticed through Alec Stewart's gate.

There is still room for improvement, but there is clearly plenty of time lying ahead of this studious-looking descendant of an Italian immigrant from the Dolomites. He put a university degree in pharmacology on hold in order to pursue his Test career; however he maintained the student look with long hair, although even that is shorter these days as he grows up and into his Test role.

He seems to have made a habit of notable victims since the start of his career. His first first-class wicket was that of Nasser Hussain, the present England captain. Coincidentally his first Test wicket was also Hussain, when he made his debut against England in 1997.

But it is not only with the ball that Vettori has been doing the business. This summer has seen him score his maiden first-class century, a solid 112 in the victory over Leicestershire some three weeks ago. That was on top of two other half-centuries against British Universities and Hampshire.

Then there was the 54 he scored at Lord's in the second Test last month, and now can be added his fourth score over 50 following yesterday's 48- ball effort, which frustrated England and saw the Kiwis ease into the realms of respectability.