Cricket: Batsman ready to step up

By David Leggat

Brownlie's skill at horizontal-bat shots could give him an edge.

Brownlie's test career, which began so encouragingly late last year, stalled, first through injury. Picture / Getty Images
Brownlie's test career, which began so encouragingly late last year, stalled, first through injury. Picture / Getty Images

Returning test batsman Dean Brownlie relishes the idea of extra responsibility being thrust on his shoulders as New Zealand prepare for a battering in South Africa.

The absence of former captain Ross Taylor leaves a gaping middle order hole. Players like Daniel Flynn, Peter Fulton, James Franklin and Brownlie will be vying for the roles around No4 and 5 in the tests at Cape Town and Port Elizabeth next month.

None have Taylor's numbers and so there's an element of making do in South Africa before Taylor returns, which is expected to be against England in February.

If he gets one of those spots, Brownlie won't be approaching his international return with any trepidation.

The Perth-born and raised Brownlie hit three half-centuries in his first five test innings late last year, and coped better than most with the short ball at Brisbane and in New Zealand's historic win at Hobart.

There's a glass-half-full attitude, which may in part stem from his Australian upbringing. This is welcome at a time when the outlook for New Zealand's test chances in the republic against the world No1 test nation is as bleak as it's ever been.

"Hopefully there are high expectations on me. I want that, and want to do well," Canterbury batsman Brownlie said.

Brownlie, with a 31.25 test average, and the other New Zealand batsmen can expect a serious examination of their back foot game from the premier South African quicks, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. Bring it on is the 28-year-old's attitude.

"I don't think I've ever gone into a game thinking we're going to get beaten. We have to stick to our plans and what we think will be the best way to beat South Africa, and go in 100 per cent." As for the short stuff, "if it comes, it comes".

His proficiency at the horizontal bat shots, the pull and cut, courtesy of the hard, bouncy pitches of Western Australia, could give him an edge over other New Zealand batsmen.

Brownlie's test career, which began so encouragingly late last year, stalled, first through injury - a broken finger at Whangarei in February - then a loss of form in the West Indies.

So in October he took himself off to the Global Cricket School in Pune, India. It has received endorsements from high-profile players including Australian Brett Lee and Englishmen Andrew Strauss and Matt Prior.

Brownlie is a convert, too. "It was an excellent experience; I'd recommend it to anyone."

He has no doubt he's a better player in spin-friendly conditions now than he was pre-Pune school.

The selectors' advice to Brownlie during his time out of the national team was simple: get runs. So he left for South Africa yesterday having bagged a couple of Plunket Shield centuries and an average of 46.11 from five games.

"If you don't make runs and someone else does, they get the spot, and that's the way it should be. It should be competitive.

"There are guys around making runs and if we're not up to par and don't perform, someone else will jump at the chance."

He respects South Africa's achievements. "They are a quality team and have done well for so long. We saw in the Australia series [won 1-0 by South Africa] that any time their backs are to the wall they've managed to get out of it, so it's going to be tough and I wouldn't expect anything else.

"I'm not sure how they'll attack, or approach, me, but I'm looking forward to the experience."

Dean Brownlie
*In his first three tests, against Zimbabwe and Australia (twice), Dean Brownlie scored 268 runs at 53
*Two ducks and nothing over 35 in the seven innings after that have dropped his average to 31.25
*His last test was in Jamaica in early August and he's missed the last four in India and Sri Lanka

- NZ Herald

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