Cricket: Opening pair face shake-up with new prospects

By Adrian Seconi

Mike Hesson. Photo / Getty Images
Mike Hesson. Photo / Getty Images

You can change the coach, the captain and the batting order, but some things never change, as New Zealand have found in their long search for a decent opening combination.

The much-praised John Wright and Bruce Edgar were not half as good as we remember, and the opening combination has seen a revolving door of candidates since they departed.

The top order is certainly coach Mike Hesson's No1 priority. They had a torrid time in South Africa and expecting the team to turn it around in time for the home series against England might be asking too much.

The players should be a lot more competitive in the T20 and one-day games. But for now, they are labouring at test level and it is the batting which is letting the side down, Hesson said yesterday.

"The top-order batting is an area where we are constantly trying to evolve," he said.

"The middle order is getting exposed to the new ball too early, therefore we can lose wickets in clumps. So that top order is critical for us."

The return of Ross Taylor should certainly help.

He left the team in acrimonious circumstances when he was replaced as test captain by Brendon McCullum. However, Hesson said he had "a good meeting" with Taylor and the pair want to move on.

"Ross is looking forward to getting back in the fold and we are certainly looking forward to having him back.

"He is a world-class batsman in all forms of the game and in test cricket, in the last few years, he has averaged close to 50. So it would be really nice to have him in the order and then be able to manoeuvre the rest of the order around him."

Taylor's return will not solve the problem at the very top, though. The opening partnership between McCullum and Martin Guptill realised 124 runs in the home test against Zimbabwe last year but since then they have had a lean run as a combination. In the last six tests their highest partnership has been 40. They have averaged just 17.75.

McCullum was set to drop down the order in South Africa and Canterbury captain Peter Fulton was poised to open with Guptill before he was ruled out with a knee injury. He scored 94 for Canterbury in a first-class game this week.

"Peter is definitely an option for us to open the batting. Daniel Flynn is opening the batting for ND and he is asking some questions there. There are some young guys around the scene who have been scoring runs for a period of time. But there is no doubt the top of the order is where we possibly have a spot open.

"We've got to finalise what line-up we want in terms of the tests. But we are certainly looking to have Brendon bat further down the order where he can play a little bit more instinctively and I think Peter's skill set suits the top of the order."

The idea off shifting BJ Watling up the order did not have a lot of appeal for Hesson. Watling is still getting used to his role as a wicketkeeper-batsman and performed well there against South Africa.

Wellington and former Australian wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi will get an opportunity for New Zealand A in two warm-up T20 games against England next week and was dubbed an "interesting prospect" by Hesson.

Otago Daily Times

- Otago Daily Times

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