Cricket: Wright to stack the batting for final test

By David Leggat

Dean Brownlie is set to bat at six in the third test. Photo / Getty Images
Dean Brownlie is set to bat at six in the third test. Photo / Getty Images

Expect six specialist batsmen to line up when New Zealand go in search of a series-levelling win against South Africa at the Basin Reserve from Friday.

Coach John Wright all but confirmed a philosophical change for the third and final test, signalling that batsman Dean Brownlie, returning from a fractured finger, suffered on February 6, will bat at No 6.

Brownlie had a far from ideal test warmup with a duck for Canterbury against Otago in Dunedin on Sunday.

That means allrounder Dan Vettori and wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk dropping down one spot. It also ends the four-seamer approach which served New Zealand well in their wins at Hobart against Australia, and in Napier against Zimbabwe.

And even though the seam bowling wasn't the problem in the second test defeat inside three days at Hamilton last week, something had to give to stiffen the batting.

"It's just a matter of getting the batting order as strong as possible," Wright said yesterday.

"We've looked a bit short at times and have had a long tail."

Wright was coy on confirming Daniel Flynn, back for his first test since December 2009 and with a test average of 28.7, will open with Martin Guptill.

"We're going to have a look at that whole situation. There's some combinations we can look at," before adding that "we've got a fair idea [of the batting order] but it's just a matter of chatting. Everyone has their opinion, we'll just sit down and say what is the best order for this team."

Wright raised the old chestnut that a left-right hand opening combination can offer a couple of fresh problems for the best new ball attacks, in terms of getting their lines and lengths right.

That sounds like Guptill and Flynn walking out together.

Opening against one of world cricket's best fast bowling trio in Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander is a stiff challenge for the best batting lineups, let alone one short of quality performers and players in good touch.

Guptill is struggling, while Brendon McCullum has been good value at No 3. However he, and captain Ross Taylor need to convert half centuries into three figures. In this, the comparison with the South Africans is unflattering.

Wright knows picking a player who has been a middle order batsman most of his career to open at the Basin Reserve would raise eyebrows and accepts that.

"But the opening situation has been pretty fluid for New Zealand cricket recently. It's a tough assignment but players like Daniel look at it as an opportunity. He can't wait to get back."

Wright denied they were guilty of tinkering with the top order.

He pointed to injuries to Brownlie and wicketkeeper BJ Watling, who scored a century against Zimbabwe but has been sidelined by a hip irritation, while Taylor missed the limited-overs series against South Africa with a calf injury.

"We haven't got a lot of options sometimes but we're picking players we think have the attitude, toughness and hopefully technique to succeed at this level," Wright said.

However he should be the ideal sounding board for Flynn, as a man who opened in 80 of his 82 tests, and as a lefthander to boot.

- NZ Herald

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