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Cricket: Reinstated veterans boost for Black Caps

Grant Elliott made an impact in his first ODIs in two years. Photo / AP
Grant Elliott made an impact in his first ODIs in two years. Photo / AP

New Zealand's first one-day series victory in South Africa reinforced the value of international experience.

A test series without first-choice players Daniel Vettori, Ross Taylor, Tim Southee and Jesse Ryder ended in a 2-0 loss and included the infamous innings of 45 in Cape Town. For the one-day internationals, veterans Grant Elliott and Kyle Mills bolstered a squad beset by withdrawals and still recovering from Shane Bond's criticism of the handling of the Taylor captaincy saga.

Elliott and Mills proved that selecting players on reputation rather than form can still work. Elliott gave centurion Kane Williamson valuable support in the Kimberley win with his ability to work the ball for singles on his way to 48. He also led the fightback with 54 in the Potchefstroom loss.

Coach Mike Hesson said Elliott was picked on the basis of his "invaluable knowledge and experience of South African conditions", having been born and raised there.

Hesson got it right.

It also showed the value of having experience in international cricket, albeit some time ago. Before this series, 33-year-old Elliott's last ODI was in December 2010.

It says much for Elliott that he can be consigned to the wilderness for two years and yet shape up immediately. It is reminiscent of players such as former captain Jeremy Coney - who rarely achieved much in the domestic game but often turned in gutsy performances in internationals.

Elliott's domestic record has been patchy as a batting all-rounder, especially for someone coming into the New Zealand line-up to bat at No4.

He averaged 23.14 for Wellington in the HRV Cup, albeit with a strike rate of 164, and in the Plunket Shield, he averaged 12 from nine innings.

Mills, also 33, injected pep into the bowling. Opening the attack, he consistently asked questions of a South African batting line-up which missed Jacques Kallis and, in the last two matches, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers.

Mills' first match figures of one for 55 from eight overs were spoilt by 19 off his final over. He responded with 26 off 40 balls with the bat at No10 to help guide New Zealand to an unlikely one-wicket victory.

He also restricted South Africa with two wickets for 28 runs from nine overs in Kimberley and two for 40 from 10 in Potchefstroom.

Like Elliott, Mills did not have the strongest HRV Cup. He has had more success in the Plunket Shield. His match figures of 10 wickets for 147 to help Auckland beat Canterbury is the only 10-wicket haul in the competition this season. Overall, he has taken 14 wickets at 23.21.

Both players will surely be welcomed back to the New Zealand limited overs squad against England.

- Herald on Sunday

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