Cricket: It's all about options for picking NZ team

By David Leggat

Daniel Flynn is back in the test side and will open the batting.
Daniel Flynn is back in the test side and will open the batting.

Choosing New Zealand's team to win a solitary test against South Africa to square their series is all about options.

New Zealand selectors John Wright and Kim Littlejohn like having them. But at least one will require a change in philosophy the key figures might be reluctant to embrace.

The easy part first; Daniel Flynn is back in the test side and will open the batting, Rob Nicol having been dropped after 28 runs from four innings.

The last of lefthander Flynn's 16 tests was against Pakistan in December 2010.

Plagued by a hip injury last year, he is back in the Northern Districts team, and in the runs. His last seven innings have been 19, 40, 113 not out, 47, 68, 136 and 68 not out at Colin Maiden Park yesterday - all batting between Nos 5-7.

But why was he not promoted to open against Auckland to at least have one innings at the top? Did a whisper not get passed to ND requesting a hand?

Flynn, whose test average is 28.7, had one innings as an opener, was a three-ball duck in Sri Lanka in 2009. His four test 50s all came at No 3.

Still, Nicol had to go, someone had to be found, and the firm view of the selectors is that they want Brendon McCullum to stay at No 3 to retain a stable middle order of McCullum, captain Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson.

It is not a bad situation for Flynn to return. Should he fail, it's unlikely to be held against him after so long out. He's a gritty kind of batsman and Lord knows New Zealand need them right now.

Middle order batsman Dean Brownlie returns after being sidelined by a fractured finger since February 6, and seamer Brent Arnel is the other player to drop out from the nine-wicket loss in Hamilton inside three days.

And herein lies New Zealand's dilemma. If Flynn and Brownlie play at the Basin Reserve, it will lengthen New Zealand's batting, with Dan Vettori dropping to No 7, wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk at No 8. The flipside is it would mean an end to the four-seamer philosophy, at least temporarily.

New Zealand used a fast-medium quartet in their thrilling seven-run win at Hobart in December; again in the innings win over Zimbabwe in January; and it was in place for the first two South African tests.

The world's No 2-ranked side have been dismissed for 238 and 253 in those matches, on the back of fine bowling, primarily from Chris Martin and Mark Gillespie. But the batting has been so poor something has to give. Martin, Gillespie and Doug Bracewell are the form seam trio. New Zealand's tail began at No 8 in both Dunedin and Hamilton. That has to stop.

Bracewell has scored 55 runs in 10 test innings. He made a nine-ball pair in Hamilton.

Over the two tests in Australia, and two South African matches, batsmen from No 8-11 scored 241 runs, for 22 times dismissed, at an average of 10.9 per dismissal.

The selectors could hand a debut to allrounder Andrew Ellis at No 9 - unlikely, as that would mean trimming the specialist seam department to two - while handing a debut to legspinner Tarun Nethula is the other alternative.

A two-seam, two-spin attack has appeal, but the Basin Reserve has bounce and helps seamers who bend their backs.

Littlejohn pointed to Williamson's fine, skilful 77 on Saturday as a positive out of New Zealand's batting woes. Patience and time is required, he said, bearing in mind the quality of the South African bowling attack.

But the frustrations felt at the batting failures are down to seeing mistakes being repeated.

That smacks of players failing to learn from their errors.

And that is not acceptable.

THIRD TEST

New Zealand squad for the third test against South Africa, starting in Wellington on Friday:

Ross Taylor (c), Martin Guptill, Daniel Flynn, Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson, Dean Brownlie, Dan Vettori, Kruger van Wyk, Andrew Ellis, Tarun Nethula, Doug Bracewell, Trent Boult, Mark Gillespie, Chris Martin.

- NZ Herald

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