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Cricket: Test frailties frustrating Guptill

Record-breaking New Zealand batsman baffled at his failure to reproduce brilliant ODI form in longer format.

Martin Guptill enjoyed himself as much as he ever has on a cricket field yesterday.

He compiled the ultimate one-day innings - the highest for his country against allcomers as New Zealand beat England by 86 runs to win the series with a match to play.

Yet seven words nagged like a squadron of Hampshire's finest mosquitoes in the aftermath: Why can't I do this in tests?

The 26-year-old's record across all formats drags cricket tragics into a state bordering on transcendental meditation, marrying together footage of Guptill's elegant presence at the wicket.

When a white ball emerges from the bowler's hand Guptill's got all the strokes, including an impenetrable defence; change the colour to red and memories are scarred by the timid shadow shuffling about the crease at Leeds in the second test.

Guptill struggles to identify why.

"Cricket's a funny game. You feel average one day, then a million bucks the next. I haven't done anything different recently. I just had a few throw-downs and found out we were batting.

"Ahead of the first game I didn't eat anything for breakfast. Ahead of the second I had scrambled eggs and baked beans on toast."

Guptill averages 29.62 in tests (a figure boosted by strong showings against the West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe), 41.25 in ODIs and 35.39 in T20Is at a strike rate of 124. A similar theme carries through his domestic record, yet his orthodox batsmanship seems perfectly suited to longer forms.

He is seeking counsel to mend his frustrations. "I've spent a bit of time with [former New Zealand opener] Mark Richardson, mainly on my test game. It's a work in progress."

Guptill is also grateful for the friendship of Ross Taylor, who, appropriately, was at the wicket when he made his second century. At the end of the match Taylor even took to tweeting a photo of himself and Guptill in the dressing room under the caption: "Here's @Martyguptill with his proud batting coach :). Haha". Their friendship remains strong after Taylor publicly thanked Guptill for his support during the captaincy saga.

"He's a good mate of mine," Guptill said. "Having him out there when I got a hundred is a special feeling.

"Ross and I run well with each other between the wickets, we look to hit gaps and we try to pressure bowlers and fielders," he said.

Guptill is not alone in struggling to find a state of test match zen to match his limited overs prowess. It has stumped illustrious names like Chris Harris, India's Yuvraj Singh and Australia's Michael Bevan.

He feels he only has one weakness. It relates to the removal of three toes from his left foot in a forklift accident when he was 13, prompting the nickname Marty Two-Toes. "My foot looks like it's got three knuckles on it, but if the ball hits them I go down like a sack of spuds."

New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum has been trying to solve the wider problem of why the country's weaknesses as a test team are negated in the shorter formats.

His hypothesis suggests New Zealand batsmen feel more comfortable with parameters, including fielding restrictions for power plays and a cap of 10 overs per bowler.

"Limited overs forces us into a certain pace we need to play at. Sometimes in tests we're still learning to address the situation and work out a successful plan."

Guptill facts

* Highest score by a New Zealander in ODIs, eclipsing Lou Vincent's 172 v Zimbabwe at Bulawayo, 2005. Jamie How had the previous highest against England (139 at Napier in 2008).

* Equal highest score by any player against England in ODIs. Sir Vivian Richards made the same score at Manchester in May 1984. Guptill had the higher strike rate (121.93 v 111.17).

* The third New Zealander to score consecutive one-day international centuries after Mark Greatbatch and Ross Taylor. Greatbatch and Guptill scored theirs in the same series, each two days apart.

* Guptill, Greatbatch, Glenn Turner (against East Africa and India at the 1975 World Cup) and Nathan Astle (against the United States at the 2004 Champions Trophy) are the only New Zealanders to score ODI centuries in England.

* Produced three consecutive century partnerships with Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum.

* 359 for three is New Zealand's sixth-highest ODI total but the highest against a top-eight test playing nation. The other five came against Ireland, Zimbabwe (x3) and Canada.

- NZ Herald

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