Daniel Vettori acknowledges the applause for his first Test century
Dean Treml / © AFP

Match That Changed My Life

The birth of an allrounder

The day Daniel Vettori finally broke through - with the bat

2003-04: New Zealand v Pakistan

It was a cover drive off Mohammad Sami. Purists will argue if it actually was a cover drive, but whatever it was, that shot took me to my first Test century. Ever since I started thinking about cricket I always wanted to score a Test match hundred. To be able to do that at my home ground in Hamilton, in front of my friends and family, was probably the most satisfying moment.

That was the 49th Test match of my career, but the most important one. If I had not reached that milestone, I would have been thoroughly unsatisfied with everything to do with cricket.

More than anything it was a relief getting to that landmark because it is something I always wanted. But it seemed so far out of my reach. I was picked as a bowler, which was what I was known to do. That was my job.

I came into international cricket with the ability to bat but quickly lost it. I started batting at No. 10 and 11.

New Zealand have a bit of history of lower-order resistance: Richard Hadlee, Ian Smith and John Bracewell have got hundreds. That there were some quality batsmen in the New Zealand lower order who had ticked off Test match hundreds was weighing on me for sure. It took me 35-40 Test matches to really understand that if I wanted to be a successful allrounder I would have to put in many, many hours of work, not just physically but mentally. In the early part of my career I used to go out there overexcited and score a quick 15 or 20 before getting distracted. It looked good but did not have a lot of substance. So there was an element of embarrassment around my Test batting.

There were a few people early on in my career who predicted I could score a Test century. But when I was averaging 14 or 15 with the bat after 30-odd Tests I had let everyone down. The inability to convert starts into big scores was beginning to affect me. So I spoke to the likes of Stephen Fleming and Mark Richardson within the New Zealand set-up and Ashley Ross [a former technical adviser with New Zealand Cricket] on the technical stuff. I had a lot of conversations with Fleming, also a tall left-hander with whom I played a lot of my cricket. Even though we were completely different batsmen, we used to talk a lot about the mental aspect.

I was batting at No. 9 in Hamilton. I had a long partnership with Fleming. But when he got out, I was on 62. I still felt that I could get a hundred, because we had Daryl Tuffey and Ian Butler, both of whom could handle a bat, but I knew I needed to get on with it quickly.

As I neared the century the nerves started to kick in a little bit. You get to 80 and you think about the hundred. It is natural. But you also think: I have done really well to get to 80. So you balance it up by saying, let's not get nervous about the century, just appreciate the fact that you have come this far. Sometimes that helps you settle down.

Why did it matter so much? It just gave you the belief that you can do it. Once I had cracked that first ton, I started earning respect from the opposition, but it was more about knowing I could do it now. I told myself that I have set a standard, and most of those standards came from training and understanding the mindset that was required to actually become a batsman. There were no excuses: even if you bowled 50 overs you still had a job to do with the bat. There were no excuses for not doing it.

Daniel Vettori played 112 Tests and 275 ODIs for New Zealand between 1997 and 2013. He was speaking to ESPNcricinfo assistant editor Nagraj Gollapudi

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