Cricket: McCullum opens the shoulders now the shackles are off

By David Leggat

Anyone watching Brendon McCullum during his test series hell in South Africa in January would scarcely recognise the man now poised to oversee a momentous victory at Eden Park today.

Back then, McCullum did a fill-in job as opener in the two tests. Peter Fulton was the designated opener with Martin Guptill until a knee injury before the first test counted him out.

McCullum did his best in a sheet anchor role, which was patently unsuited to his strengths.

Coach Mike Hesson made it clear after those two thumping defeats in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth that all batting positions were up for discussion and all but confirmed McCullum's days as a test opener were over.

Not only has a change of position done wonders, he no longer looks as if he's having sleepless nights figuring out how he'll cope with Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and co. In that he is not the Lone Ranger among international openers.

McCullum has seized the England tour, made a success of it the middle order and if there is a criticism that he has not gone on to turn one of his seven half centuries across the three forms into three figures, consider they're still pretty rare in T20s, don't crop up for No5 or No6 batsmen that often in ODIs; and a half century is a lot better than nothing.

The old aggression has bristled in McCullum the batsman. Yesterday, he ensured that the momentum moved up when he arrived at the crease after an hour.

England were taken apart, double century-maker Fulton cheerfully filling his boots, too.

The cut of McCullum's jib may never be the ideal fit for every New Zealand cricket fan, but it can't be denied that with his front-foot attitude at the crease, allied to being unafraid to shuffle his field about, he's made this, in personal terms, a special series.

England's nemesis

Brendon McCullum's summer:
T20s: 10 (5), 74 (38), 26 (20 balls)
ODIs: 69* (61), 74 (36), 79 (68)
Tests: 74 (59), 69 (94), 38 (62), 67* (53)

- NZ Herald

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