Cricket: Hail comeback king Franklin

By Andrew Alderson

Of the surprise candidates to fight their way back into the Black Caps' inner circle, James Franklin tops the list.

The all-rounder was on the outer with the selectors in each format when he was dropped from April and May's World Twenty20 tournament. He has since been selected in all three squads - and must stand a fine chance of playing in today's Twenty20 opener against Pakistan in Auckland.

Franklin's not-out performances batting at six in India, where he made scores of 98, 72 and 17 in one-day appearances, showed he may have finally come to grips with batting in the international arena after a stellar domestic career.

If the Black Caps eventually decide to split opening pair Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder in the shorter forms, new coach John Wright could even opt to use Franklin.

Wright has flirted with the idea when observing the Black Caps. It will be interesting to see if it becomes a reality now he has the reins.

Franklin opened or batted at first drop for Gloucestershire in their 40 and 20-over campaigns during a full, injury-free season of county cricket.

His results were extraordinary under Gloucestershire coach John Bracewell.

In the 40-over competition, Franklin finished with an average of 73 - making a couple of hundreds and fifties with a strike rate of 92.

His left-arm medium pace was not in the same class, taking three wickets at an average of 87.66.

In the T20 matches, he averaged 39 but stepped the strike rate up to 130. A highlight was an aggressive 90 from 50 balls against Sussex.

However, expensive bowling (8.83 an over) and too few wickets (eight at 39.75) let him down in the shortest format.

He did not bowl at all in his last two ODI matches against India, after copping 34 off four overs in the first he played.

Franklin's transition to the first class scene was impressive. He had the third highest batting average (33.15) in a poorly-performed county line-up. He made a hundred and four 50s but showed he could bat time, pulling back the tempo to a strike rate of 47.

His longer form bowling was best, taking 46 wickets at 23.54, including a career best seven for 14 against Derbyshire. He helped knock them over for 44 in an hour and a quarter, taking his first five wickets without conceding a run.

He finished ninth on the Most Valuable Player table across all county cricket. Unfortunately the team could not muster more than a mid-table finish in any format.

The 30-year-old's rise has been in contrast to Gloucestershire's dip. He didn't fit the mould for the Emerging Players tour to Australia but captained New Zealand A against Zimbabwe A in October and got the call-up to the top side in India, replacing the injured Hamish Bennett.

Selector Glenn Turner says that after India, the panel believes Franklin may have finally become a more consistent international player.

"He has been an enigma for a while. He has plenty of talent and hits the ball further than just about anyone. It's just a matter of confidence and approach.

"He did well at Gloucestershire, playing day-in, day-out, and didn't break down. Let's hope it is just a start. On current form we see him as less of an all-rounder in one-dayers but he would be expected to step up for 10-12 overs an innings in tests, where he has more of a chance to build a spell."

- NZ Herald

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