Cricket: After the crash ... the repair job

By David Leggat

New Zealand's cricket selectors face a difficult task after the Newlands disaster, and their options are limited

As the New Zealand team filed on to their team bus after the second day's play at Newlands yesterday, a voice in the throng surrounding the players called out: "You should have stuck with Ross Taylor."

Just what the sheepish New Zealand players needed to hear during a particularly dark week for the national side.

At some point soon, coach Mike Hesson, his assistants Bob Carter and Shane Bond, and captain Brendon McCullum, will gather and ponder what to do for the second test, in Port Elizabeth.

That match starts on Friday. Options are limited in the area most in need of attention.

The much-improved effort by the bowlers on Thursday shouldn't mean they escape scrutiny, but the batting is where there are big issues. The number 45 roars loudly in the New Zealanders' ears at the moment.

The difficulty is that just where they need some alternatives, they have precisely one. Auckland lefthander Colin Munro is the only spare batsman in the tour group of 15.

Munro was chosen for the T20 series, and will be in the ODI group for the three games to follow Port Elizabeth.

When Peter Fulton's knee started playing tricks after the T20 series, leading to his early departure from the tour, Durban-born Munro was held back as cover.

This is his first tour. He is in strong domestic form.

But if the selectors decide a change has to be made to at least show they're trying to rectify the situation, who goes? Lefthander Daniel Flynn is the only real option.

Opener Martin Guptill looked at sea against Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander in the Cape Town test, when he made 1 and 0.

His limited-overs game is booming, but his test average is slipping. Overall it is 30.83 in 29 tests. Remove runs against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and that drops to 24. But he has to stay, at least for next week.

Dean Brownlie, under pressure after a first innings duck, more than revived his situation with a courageous innings yesterday in anchoring New Zealand to 169-4. No3 batsman Kane Williamson will stay.

Brownlie was banged about yesterday by Dale Steyn, but got to 69 by stumps with a desire to play his attacking shots, not sit back and wait for something to happen. His innings was probably the single most encouraging element out of the first two days.

He had good fortune, too, but he helped pull captain Brendon McCullum along in a rollicking 89-run stand off 81 balls.

McCullum looked for a long time as if he'd reached a fork in a road and did not know which direction to take.

He had to scrap hard, must have wanted to get after the bowling, but kept his head and showed resolve.

The bowling is more intriguing.

Left-arm spinner Bruce Martin, on his first tour, could get the slow job. Offspinner Jeetan Patel couldn't dent the South African batting line-up, and took some punishment.

This is not to suggest that 32-year-old Martin will slice through Smith, Kallis, de Villiers and company. But they've never seen him bowl, he'll give it air and he can't be less effective than Patel.

Veteran Chris Martin, after an average opening day's work, got three wickets yesterday and looked sharper. So did Trent Boult, but Doug Bracewell remains a worry.

He's been expensive and, big heart or not, appears to be unable to stick to a demanding line.

There are two left-handers in the fast-medium quintet, Neil Wagner and Mitchell McClenaghan. A case can be made for both of them, one for reasons of economy and old ball skills, the other for his extra pace and bounce.

But Martin put in a plug for Bracewell and another left-armer,Trent Boult, yesterday. The pair, with the injured Tim Southee "are going to be the way forward for New Zealand cricket for quite some time".

"If you look at the good sides, they all have two or three good bowlers that play for a long time, play together and get that consistency and feel for what each of them are all about," Martin said.

"That bodes well and coming up in the next few years there's plenty of cricket for these guys to learn to get better and better."

The tour selectors certainly have some hard thinking to do.


Round two

2nd test v South Africa
Port Elizabeth
Jan 11-15

- NZ Herald

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