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Cricket: Poor batting makes keeping job difficult

Kruger van Wyk prepares to dismiss Mahela Jayawardene. Photo / AP
Kruger van Wyk prepares to dismiss Mahela Jayawardene. Photo / AP

Pressure is mounting on Kruger van Wyk to keep his spot in the New Zealand test XI for the tour to South Africa, despite tidy performances as a wicketkeeper.

Van Wyk's batting is the culprit. Questions are being asked following a pair in the second test win against Sri Lanka in Colombo. Van Wyk looked ill-suited to No6 and contributed only 28 and 13 not out at No7 in the first test batting debacle.

He has made one half century in 17 test innings - 71 against India in Bangalore. The 32-year-old averages 21.14 in nine tests.

In a curious parallel, Reece Young (also then 32) lost his test place after the win over Australia at Hobart almost a year ago. He averaged 24.14 from five tests.

Van Wyk's glovework is probably in a better state than Young's was at the time. Young's case wasn't helped when a delivery hit him in the mouth at Brisbane. Van Wyk has been sharp standing up for stumping opportunities to Jeetan Patel and took his share of catches off the pace bowlers this tour.

His catching rate is solid by New Zealand standards at 1.352 per innings but no comparison to the likes of Brendon McCullum (1.849) or Adam Parore (1.661).

BJ Watling, Luke Ronchi and perhaps Derek de Boorder loom as challengers. Watling was the form batsman of the one-day series in Sri Lanka. The intention was to send him home before the tests for the Plunket Shield. Instead, he stayed as injury cover for Daniel Flynn before the first test. He has since played one Twenty20 innings for Northern Districts against Central Districts - he was dismissed for one.

The first-class match starting today against Canterbury at Seddon Park shapes as a trial for his test future. Watling could provide batting grunt at 6 or 7. He has played eight tests but only one as a wicketkeeper - against Zimbabwe in January, when he scored a maiden century, took four catches when the visitors were bowled out twice in a day and conceded just four byes. Watling didn't keep in four subsequent tests.

The move to have Watling keep was a triumph for then-coach John Wright's selection. He reasoned Watling would bolster the middle order - especially as a trained opener against any second new ball - and thought him useful with the gloves in provincial action. However, a hip injury, solid performances by van Wyk and a struggle opening in one test against the West Indies saw Watling banished.

If van Wyk is deemed excess to requirements, homegrown talent might again be skipped in favour of new Wellington gloveman Luke Ronchi.

Four years ago, Ronchi was Australia's No2 wicketkeeper behind Brad Haddin. He shone on debut during the 2008 limited-overs series in the West Indies and was establishing himself as Haddin's long-term successor until his form faded and he was overtaken by Graham Manou, Tim Paine and today's incumbent Matthew Wade.

Born in Dannevirke, Ronchi decided to give things a go back in New Zealand once an opportunity emerged. Wellington obliged. Ronchi completes his mandatory four-year stand-down period in January. In three Plunket Shield matches, he has 13 dismissals, second only to Otago's de Boorder this season. The 31-year-old's given away just 10 byes in 511.4 overs.

He also made 127 at better than a-run-a-ball against Auckland. It reinforces the 111 he made in a first-class cameo last summer after deciding to cross the Tasman with his wife and 2-year-old son to revamp his career.

De Boorder might also enter the reckoning as a respected protege of New Zealand coach Mike Hesson. Hesson gave de Boorder his debut with Otago in 2007-08 - he has been a core member since. The 27-year-old has struggled in four matches with the bat this season, making just 132 runs at 18.85, but he leads the wicket-keeping dismissals with 17. He topped the dismissal ranks last year with 38 and was second the previous two years.

But his batting form has dipped over the past season. He was second to Kyle Mills in the 2010-11 batting averages with 66.70 and was a genuine contender when Watling won the wicketkeeping spot.

- Herald on Sunday

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