Cricket: Openers seek return to summer form

By David Leggat

New Zealand's second and final warmup game in England holds particular importance for openers Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford.

The pair lorded it over England's bowlers at different stages of the drawn three-test rubber in New Zealand in March. Rutherford's 171 on debut at University Oval drew deserved high praise. He faltered as the series went on, England figuring they had worked out a weakness to the shorter ball around off stump.

Fulton's fabulous double of 136 and 110 at Eden Park firmly put in their place those who questioned the wisdom of recalling the 34-year-old.

However, the pair failed to cash in as New Zealand beat Derbyshire by 107 runs yesterday. Fulton made 21 and 3, lefthander Rutherford 13 and 0. Their positions for the opening test at Lord's, starting on May 16, aren't in doubt. But both will want runs when New Zealand's game against the England Lions starts at Leicester tomorrow night.

Coach Mike Hesson indicated yesterday the shadow test batting group will play at Leicester. That is likely to be Fulton, Rutherford, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, captain Brendon McCullum and Dean Brownlie.

The brevity of the test leg of New Zealand's tour - with no other game between the first and second tests - means Martin Guptill's chances of forcing his way in now appear slim.

Hesson also indicated that the only spinner in the party, Auckland left armer Bruce Martin, is a strong chance to play at Lord's, thus burying the idea of a four-seamer bowling attack supplemented by Williamson's occasional offspin.

"We will look at Lord's but I suppose, in early season, when the wickets are a little bit slower it's quite nice to have someone with a change of pace," he said.

Martin and rival seamers Neil Wagner and Doug Bracewell shared all 20 Derbyshire wickets. Wagner's five for 45 as Derbyshire were rolled for 227 in their second innings, gave him eight for 78 in the match - six of them in the top five of the county team's batting order. He deserves to hold his place for Lord's, although Bracewell has done everything right in terms of keeping the heat on to regain his spot.

Test certainties Tim Southee and Trent Boult will play at Leicester. The third seamer role at Lord's looks, as it has since the end of the home series, the key decision for Hesson and McCullum.

- NZ Herald

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