He's not in the shorter version of the international game but that doesn't mean Doug Bracewell is out of touch with bowling.
The Black Caps opening seamer yesterday ripped out the heart of the Canterbury Wizards batsmen with career-best figures of 7-35 from 19 overs, including six maidens, at Rangiora.
The 22-year-old spearheaded the Central Districts Stags' attack to help skittle the hosts at Mainpower Oval on the first day of the four-day Plunket Shield cricket match.
"The boys are in a pretty good position so as long as we bat well tomorrow we'll be fine," Bracewell said last night after the Gary Stead-coached Wizards recovered from 4-69 to be skittled for 252 from 87 overs.
In a memorable opening spell, the Taradale Cricket Club player had conceded just one run from four overs with the prized wicket of Canterbury opening batsman and test contender Peter Fulton for a run on the way to sending three top-order batsmen back to shorts and jandals before mopping up the tail.
Among his other scalps were Black Cap Dean Brownlie and, after he took the new ball, Todd Astle.
"We thought there was going to be some movement in the first session and there was a little bit," Bracewell said, justifying captain Kieran Noema-Barnett's decision to have Canterbury padding up after winning the toss.
"It flattened out pretty good but there wasn't much pace or bounce and carry.
"We just had to be patient and put the ball in the right areas to slowly build up pressure," he said, lauding fellow opener Andrew Lamb who tightened the screw at his end to finish the first innings with the figures of 1-22 from 14 overs, including five maidens.
At stumps, openers Jeet Raval and Jamie How were unbeaten on 13 and 19, respectively.
Bracewell, emphasising the Stags weren't looking too far ahead, were primarily focused on occupying the crease today when play resumes at 10.30am.
CD coach Alan Hunt has also echoed the need for Bracewell at No7 and Tarun Nethula at No8 to add to a respectable first-innings total as they find themselves a penultimate match away from lifting the shield.
"I'm looking forward to batting at No7 and having the opportunity to score some runs," Bracewell said, mindful when the test matches start against the touring England team shortly he will have to show a modicum of stickability.
Not featuring in Black Caps coach Mike Hesson and New Zealand selectors' equation in the shorter form of the international series, Bracewell had worked on swinging the ball again.
"It worked today so I'm happy but I'm looking forward to the challenge in the test series hopefully after the boys get up in the twenty/20 and one-dayers."
Former Stag batsman George Worker hung around as opener to score 34 runs before Black Cap Tom Latham and Shannan Stewart saved the Wizards with 81 and 61 respectively in a fifth-wicket partnership.
No5 Latham carved up 10 boundaries before Nethula snared him while Stewart got six shots to the rope before falling prey to Bracewell.
No7 Todd Astle contributed 34.
The Stags lead the shield table but need to keep their heads out of the clouds if they are to achieve their goals of etching their names on the first-class woodwork as well as keeping their mitts on the one-day Ford Trophy title.
In Dunedin, Black Cap Neil Wagner was the toast of the Otago Volts when he claimed a five-wicket bag against the Auckland Aces.
Wagner, the leading wicket-taker in the shield for the past two seasons, picked apart the Auckland top order with an impressive 5-54 from his 21 overs, helping stifle the visitors to a first-innings total of 221.
The Aces, who padded up after captain Gareth Hopkins won the toss, initially stuttered as Wagner, Jimmy Neesham and James McMillan kept the top six to no more than 23 runs.
Anaru Kitchen battled his way to 74 while Bruce Martin contributed a quickfire 31.
Otago were 118-2 at stumps with Aaron Redmond scoring 72 and Darren Broom 35.
At the Cobham Oval in Whangarei, Black Cap Tim Southee claimed four wickets for the Northern Districts Knights in the dash to make the cut to play the Englishmen after missing the South African tour because of the birth of his first child and then a thumb injury.
The Wellington Firebirds were 412-9 at stumps with Harry Boam scoring 102 while middle-order batsman Scott Kuggeleijn dug in for 74.