Cricket: Batsmen to face barrage in nets

By David Leggat

Pushing players to brink will help steel them for test intensity, says Hesson.

New Zealand's batsmen, Brendon McCullum included, had few answers to the venom of South Africa's bowlers during the first test.  Photo / AP
New Zealand's batsmen, Brendon McCullum included, had few answers to the venom of South Africa's bowlers during the first test. Photo / AP

Life is about to get more uncomfortable for New Zealand's beleaguered batting group in South Africa.

Coming off the humiliation of their first innings 45 in the opening test at Newlands, coach Mike Hesson is determined to spice up training to replicate the heat they'll face at the start of the second test in Port Elizabeth on Friday.

New Zealand's batsmen were cruelly exposed by South Africa's champion pace trio of Dale Steyn, man of the match Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel in the first test.

The trio took 16 of the 20 New Zealand wickets to fall in the match and put the batsmen through hoops en route to an innings and 27-run win.

"It's not that our trainings aren't intense, but they are certainly at a lower intensity that what we're going to face in the second test," Hesson said yesterday.

The practice pitches out the back of the ground are bouncy enough to provide a good test and among ploys being considered are having the faster bowlers coming in from a couple of metres closer to the batsmen to raise the speed and cranking up the bowling machines.

"It's a matter of feeling challenged, feeling uncomfortable and then working out some ways to cope with it," Hesson added. "More bouncers, a more hostile approach from our bowlers - which is what we need - and ultimately will help our batters."

The bowling machines could also help "get themselves to the level of anxiety they are going to face out there", Hesson added.

Changes to the batting order, if not the personnel, would also be on the agenda for the team management.

Opener Martin Guptill, an outstanding batsman in the white ball games, is battling at test level. He was cut down by Steyn and Philander in making 1 and 0 in the first test.

The top three of Guptill, captain Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson have been intact for the last five tests.

In that time, No 3 Williamson has been walking out to the middle with the totals at 25, 26, 0, 30, 29, 18, 4, 32, 7 and 0. Guptill has made 128 runs at an average of 12.8 over that period.

The only spare batsman on tour is Auckland newcomer Colin Munro, a middle-order player. Hesson effectively joined McCullum in saying the six would be given a chance to redeem themselves in Port Elizabeth.

However, Hesson said twiddling with the order is not out of the question. "Martin's a fine player. He's done very well at times but when the ball swings at the top you've got to be very strong in your decision-making. If you make a minor error, you can be exposed.

"Opening batsmen go through little periods where they don't quite nail it. Certainly we're confident Martin is a good enough player to get past that."

One alternative is promoting wicketkeeper BJ Watling, who has opened in tests, to the top and shunting Guptill into the middle order. But Watling's hands are full with the gloves as it is.

"We've shown some real continuity there and it would be nice to continue that, but certainly we need to see some improvements," Hesson said.

"That's a tough ask up top and certainly against an attack like this."

- NZ Herald

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