Cricket: McClenaghan feasts on South Africa A

By Michael Brown

Mitchell McClenaghan for three wickets as the Black Caps won their tour opener. Photo / Getty Images
Mitchell McClenaghan for three wickets as the Black Caps won their tour opener. Photo / Getty Images

Mitchell McClenaghan might have removed a number of staples from his diet but he's hoping to dine out on South African batsmen in the upcoming series in the Republic.
The 26-year-old was one of the standouts for New Zealand in their 24-run win over

South Africa A in a Twenty20 match in Pietermaritzburg this morning (NZT). He was both fast and penetrative as he knocked the top off the home side's batting lineup and finished with the highly-respectable figures of 3-19 from his four overs.

It should be enough for McClenaghan to earn a start against South Africa for the first of three Twenty20 internationals in Durban on Saturday morning (NZT) and Auckland teammate Colin Munro also put his hand up for selection when he top-scored with 39 from 27 balls to help New Zealand through to 140-8 on a slow pitch.

McClenaghan was unplayable at times as he picked up a wicket in each of his first three overs and South Africa A limped through to 116-9 in their 20 overs.

McClenaghan is one of five new faces in the Black Caps squad and has been in good form domestically. He credits some of that to his new diet, which has seen him give up, among other things, bread and pasta.

"The diet's been massive,'' he said recently. "No sugars, no breads, no nothing, really. Just good veges and broccoli, lots of broccoli. I've learned to love it.''

He's also enjoyed being injury-free after a time earlier in his career when his injury list resembled that of a car crash victim.

"Fractured pelvis, three hip surgeries, a snapped ankle ligament... I could keep going if you want,'' he said.

New captain Brendon McCullum, who chimed in with 32 off 38 balls this morning, will want McClenaghan and others to keep performing on what is looming as an extremely difficult tour.

Beating South Africa A is a good start after the turmoil of the past couple of weeks around the Ross Taylor saga but the Proteas on home soil will be an altogether different beast.

Both McClenaghan and Munro gave some insight into McCullum's captaincy style. McClenaghan said McCullum told him to "bowl hard'' and Munro explained that

McCullum had given him "licence to play my natural game''. McCullum is expected to be aggressive and instinctive, mirroring the way he normally bats.

"Brendon just said to go out and bowl hard,'' McClenaghan said. "He wasn't worried about me going for runs, which is always good. He said it didn't matter if I got hit around, just said come hard and take [wickets] at the top of the order.''

The left-armer is developing a reputation for bowling quickly and is intrigued to see how he compares to South African quicks Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, who both bowl at up to 150km/h. His stocks have been rising in recent times and he played for New Zealand A against India A in September but he is emerging into an increasingly-congested New Zealand bowling scene with the likes of Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell and Neil Wagner.

"He's a bit of a madman,'' Munro said. "He just comes in and bowls fast and Baz has given him licence to run in and try to take wickets up front and he managed to do so today and put South Africa A on the back foot.''

Spinner Ronnie Hira was also dangerous today, collecting 3-35 in his four overs, and Nathan McCullum (22 off 15) and Jimmy Neesham (13 off seven) helped close out the innings.

It's still far too early to make predictions about the tour but winning breeds confidence and this New Zealand side could do with plenty of that.

- APNZ

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