Cricket: Southee prepares for tough examination

By Chris Barclay

Not so long ago Tim Southee was playing for the Kings' College's first 11.

Now the 19-year-old's cricketing education is poised to advance to a daunting finishing school - a New Zealand debut against England when the Twenty20 component of the tourists' schedule starts at Auckland's Eden Park on Tuesday.

Southee, a promising fast bowler from Northern Districts, was expecting to be at Lincoln today, joining his under-19 World Cup teammates on the outskirts of Christchurch for a final domestic camp before heading to Australia enroute to Malaysia, the tournament's host.

However, a message on his mobile from Sir Richard Hadlee put paid to those plans on Monday, as the fast bowling legend advised Southee his rapid development was about to accelerate even swifter.

Southee was named yesterday as one of two new players to face England - Wellington allrounder Jesse Ryder is the other - and he was still absorbing the news hours after it was made official.

"I was totally blown away. I didn't recognise the number but when I played the message, it sounded like him.

"It still hasn't sunk in that I could be walking on to the same field as (English players) Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen and playing for my country."

Southee, who has taken 15 wickets at 24.86 in first class cricket this season, has been identified as part of the Black Caps' future, his selection dovetails with the departure of premier paceman Shane Bond.

Understandably New Zealand selector Hadlee would not draw a parallel between the pair, noting Southee's career was still in its infancy.

"A year and a bit ago I playing at school for Kings," the Whangarei-born right armer also pointed out.

But Hadlee had no qualms about blooding Southee during the two Twenty20 slogathons next week, despite the fact the game's shortest format can be soul destroying for bowlers.

"Why delay producing a player of some talent?" he asked.

"Perhaps I could compare him with Brendon McCullum when he started (in 2002) - he had a lot of potential.

"It might take a lot of time for Tim to find his feet but why wait two or three years when someone is in a special category?

"The feed back we're getting is that this guy has got it.

"He runs in relatively straight, he gets through his action nicely and he moves the ball, particularly away from the batsman."

Like Hadlee, Southee was placing no great expectations on his shoulders given the seasoned pros he was poised to run in to.

"It's just exciting thinking about playing with the big names," he said.

"You know the odds are against you as a bowler in Twenty20 but it's just a fun game and it's over quickly."

His coach at Northern Districts, Englishman Andy Moles, was confident the rookie would not be scarred by the experience, should he feature in Auckland next Tuesday or Christchurch two nights later.

"It's only four overs so he can't get mauled too much if it goes wrong, bowlers go into Twenty20 knowing it's hero or zero.

"You have to remember he's 19 and finding his way."

While elite international cricket will be a new experience for Southee, Auckland allrounder Paul Hitchcock, 33, found himself back in the frame for the first time since 2003-04.

The medium pacer was included in both squads, placing him in to contention to play his 14th ODI and first since an outing against Pakistan at Ralwalpindi.

Hitchcock, who has a dozen ODI wickets at 34.33, is a candidate to bowl at the tail of the innings, a perennial area of vulnerability for the Black Caps.

"We see him as a death bowling expert" Hadlee said.

"He has a number of change ups and variations. He gives us a few more options in Twenty20 games that (spinner) Jeetan Patel."

Hitchcock surprising recall was aided by injuries to James Franklin, Mark Gillespie and Andre Adams refusal to play under coach John Bracewell.

Ryder, who has been selected as an opener, has also had his issues with officialdom but the hard-hitting left hander appears a reformed character.

"We're thrilled for Jesse," Wellington Cricket chief executive officer Gavin Larsen said.

"First and foremost change has to come from within but (coach) Anthony Stuart has brought the best out of Jesse, we have a lot to thank him for."

NZ squads named to play England

Twenty20: Daniel Vettori (captain), Brendon McCullum, Jesse Ryder, Jamie How, Ross Taylor, Scott Styris, Jacob Oram, Peter Fulton, Kyle Mills, Paul Hitchcock, Chris Martin, Tim Southee.

One-day: Vettori (captain), McCullum, Ryder, How, Taylor, Styris, Fulton, Oram, Mills, Hitchcock, Martin, Michael Mason, Jeetan Patel.


- NZPA

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