Otago opener Hamish Rutherford has just improved his odds of making his test debut in Dunedin next week.

Until yesterday the 23-year-old left-hander had a 50 per cent chance of opening the batting alongside Peter Fulton in the first test against England.

He was named in the test squad with fellow prospect Tom Latham, but yesterday put some distance between himself and his main rival with a fine innings of 90 for the New Zealand XI against England in a tour match in Queenstown.

At stumps on day two the New Zealand XI had reached 224-6 and trail England by 202 runs. Rutherford looked a sound bet for a century but was defeated by a delivery from Chris Woakes 10 runs shy of the milestone. He made his way slowly to the sideline, head held low. He stopped just over the boundary rope and practised the shot a few more times before ripping off his pads.


He need not be disappointed, surely a test spot beckons. He hit 13 fours and plenty of them were pleasing shots down the ground or through the covers. He also played a memorable lofted drive off Graeme Swann down the ground for six to release the shackles when England's attack had got on top.

There is a touch of class about Rutherford junior. He does not have the wide array of shots his father, Ken, possessed. But he has made improvements to his game and is scoring more often on the on-side than he has in the past.

His 81-run partnership with Dean Brownlie provided the backbone of the home side's innings. Brownlie's knock of 63 was decent, although he batted more like a player keen on the practice than one trying to get his team into a position to win.

Regardless, he saw off the threats of Stuart Broad and Swann and will take confidence into the test series.