Cricket: Ryder growing in stature

By David Leggat

A year ago, Ross Taylor hit a memorable 120 against England at Seddon Park.

It looked the sort of innings which hinted at the turning of a corner for a gifted batsman. It was a display of graft and concentration and a departure from earlier, more dashing if less substantial innings.

Since then there have been strong days, notably his 154 not out against England at Old Trafford a few months later, and others not so memorable.

This week, Jesse Ryder, a teenage Central Districts contemporary and at 24, five months younger, did something similar against India, on the same ground.

Ryder's 102 showed another side to a talented batsman, a willingness to battle for his runs and to take his opportunity for a maiden test century.

There is another similarity between the two: both have the capacity to make batting look easy.

So what is the test future for Ryder? What state is his test batting in? Might Wednesday mark a similar watershed as Taylor's century suggested a year ago?

Considering the century, which, in concert with captain Dan Vettori's third test hundred, rescued New Zealand from a parlous 61 for six, followed three successive half centuries, it points to the Wellington left-hander being in particularly good touch.

Ryder is a man of few words. His reaction to his century was uncomplicated and brief.

Yes, he was chuffed to have got there after squandering a couple of earlier chances. He'd stuck to a plan and it came off.

He'd been happy to play second fiddle to the more aggressive Vettori. When the tail arrived, in the form of Iain O'Brien and Chris Martin, "I didn't want to throw it away. I backed them to see me through, and they did."

That was more or less it in terms of self-assessment.

Vettori didn't hold back, however, pointing out that Ryder might have raised the eyebrows of those who view him primarily as a swashbuckling one-day opener.

"It was a quality innings. He had the ability to leave good balls and put away bad balls and that's what great batsmen do. When they sense an opening to attack, they do it, and we saw that in Jesse's innings," he said.

Glenn Turner was one of New Zealand's great batsmen. Only 25 players have scored 100 first-class hundreds. He's one of them, averaging 49.7 in his first-class career with 103 centuries.

Only Martin Crowe (45.36) and Mark Richardson (44.77) among those who have played 20 or more tests can better Turner's 44.64.

He also happens to be chairman of the national selection panel. But, taking his selectorial hat off, Turner was a keen observer of Ryder's batting on Wednesday.

He had one quibble, that Ryder threw his wicket away the ball after completing his century. That, he admitted, was "being a bit picky".

Turner was not surprised by what he saw, or the manner of it.

"Not only has he got ability but his first-class record is better than limited-overs for Wellington. He has shown he can bat longer periods of time," Turner said yesterday.

"We've seen he's a good striker of the ball. He hits them clean. He stands very still and that's one of the secrets of making good contact."

He pointed out that Ryder at times does not move his feet as much as he should, "but he's got very good hands and that can get him out of trouble".

Turner wondered if Ryder's caution against classy offspinner Harbhajan Singh was to try to get a reading on the bowler's "doosra", the delivery which goes the other way off the pitch.

"You haven't got time to go through that in one-dayers, so maybe he was double-checking that he could determine the difference."

Turner made the point that Ryder's policy seemed to be based primarily on defence with attack as "a second fundamental, and that's largely what test cricket is about".

So, all in all, a tick from a master batsman for the test tyro, whose test average in just his seventh match is a healthy 54.6.

What about a piece of advice? Turner goes back to Ryder's dismissal, holing out when he might have cribbed a further 20 runs, even with last man Chris Martin for company.

"You really have to treasure your wicket.

"Cash in big. That's the difference between good and very good players."

- NZ Herald

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