David Leggat on sport

David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

David Leggat: Rutherford in rare company with smile making century

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As Hamish Rutherford elbowed his way into cricket's record books yesterday, the mind went back to others on that roll of debutant century-makers.

To Rodney Redmond, a special place of honour will always be reserved. After all, the chances of another New Zealand batsman scoring a century in his first and only test these days are slim to none. This test notwithstanding, you'd imagine New Zealand's resources were not so deep that a Redmond would be tossed aside now as he was in 1973.

It was Pakistan at Eden Park. "He's working him round the clock," enthused radio commentator Alan Richards, as Redmond sent occasional offspinner Majid Khan to the fence five times in one over on a hot, sunny afternoon in pre-Mexican Wave days - all towelling hats and piles of tinnies.

Or Bruce Taylor, whose hundred at Kolkata in 1965 needs to be set alongside the five for 86 he then took in India's first innings. He's still the only New Zealander to achieve that.

Some of his teammates called him Haystacks on the unproven suspicion that if he fell out of a plane he'd land in one. But his talent wasn't in question.

The others all have stories attached to them, and Rutherford will have his in time.

Coach Mike Hesson deserves a pat on the back for sticking with Rutherford. He saw something about him he liked, gave him his chance in the shorter forms earlier in the tour, the impression deepened that he was cut out for the top with 90 at Queenstown and he rammed it home over the last two days.

Where else would you rather announce your credentials than on your home pitch?

Rutherford, one untidy period late on Thursday aside, looked the part. He didn't eschew his attacking instincts, but dialled them back a few notches from the T20 requirements.

A conversation before the start of the T20 leg of the ANZ international series nestles at the back of the mind.

Rutherford was asked a few questions about his father, the former test captain Ken, and the impact he'd had on his cricket.

Politely the son made it clear he's his own man. Dad lived overseas for much of his formative years. They're fine, there are no issues but the son wants to make it on his own terms rather than be constantly reminded of his genes. Fair enough, too.

Sure he had some luck, dropped twice. But that happens. Move on.

His driving was crisp and he maintained a desire to avoid getting bogged down. His mindset remained assertive. Striking spinner Monty Panesar over the long on fence in his first over demonstrated a head free of fear and repercussions.

Spare a cheer for Peter Fulton, too, his partner in New Zealand's third-highest opening stand by a first-time pair. Three and a bit years gone from the national team, seemingly forever, but he ploughed on and by dint of weight of domestic runs got a reprieve, then made it count. What now for him, at 34?

You hope rain doesn't deprive New Zealand of at least a decent chance of a test win. They'll still have to be good; England's batting surely can't be that listless and witless again.

And after a lengthy period of precious little to enthuse over, there's a young man who's put a smile on New Zealand fans' faces again.

- NZ Herald

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