At 28, improving Tarun Nethula is coming into his best spinning years, writes David Leggat
This is a time New Zealand could do with searching for a positive or two as they battle to stay with South Africa the deeper the tour goes.
So step forward Tarun Nethula, the legspinner who moved from Auckland to Central Districts a couple of seasons ago to further his ambitions.
He has taken 79 first-class wickets from 28 games at 37.36 apiece, which might not have statistical lovers jumping off the seat but he's steadily improving.
He got a chance against Zimbabwe in the ODI series and made a decent job of it.
At McLean Park on Wednesday night, Nethula grabbed two for 60 from his 10 overs against the South Africans, was clearly delighted and earned high praise from his captain, Brendon McCullum.
Nethula did get some punishment, but bowling on a road of a strip against top class batting from the world's No 1-ranked ODI batsman, Hashim Amla and his associates, 28-year-old Nethula acquitted himself well.
Had Rob Nicol not spilled a sitter at long off, Nethula would have had Amla out earlier than he did. That came when he beat a defensive stroke to take the edge of Amla's bat.
A few overs earlier, he had induced a gentle return catch from lefthander JP Duminy. Happy? You bet - and don't be surprised to find Nethula's name in an extended New Zealand squad of 14 today, to prepare for the first test at Dunedin next week.
"I'm really pleased for Tarun," McCullum said. "He bowled exceptionally well and his figures certainly didn't tell the story of how well he bowled.
"He could have had another wicket and 15 runs off his tally. Tarun's a huge positive out of this series for us and I'm sure he goes into the mix as a real option for us in the future as well."
Mark that down as near future too, as opposed to a point somewhere off later in the year.
New Zealand's next assignment is a tour to the West Indies in late June-July and other opportunities are looming on tours to Sri Lanka and India before the year-ending return tour to South Africa.
And at 28, Nethula is coming into his best spinning years. Interesting days.By David Leggat Email David