Andrew Alderson: Franklin an option to open the batting

By Andrew Alderson of the Herald on Sunday in Birmingham

New Zealand selectors might give thought to opening with James Franklin. Photo / Getty Images.
New Zealand selectors might give thought to opening with James Franklin. Photo / Getty Images.

Luke Ronchi will have a chance to cement himself at the top of the order in New Zealand's Champions Trophy match against Australia tonight (NZT) but the selectors might give thought to opening with James Franklin.

Franklin is a player with experience donning the pads first in England's domestic competitions and, if Ronchi fails again with the bat at Edgbaston, Franklin is a prospect for elevation.

It makes logical sense. Ronchi had taken five catches, made a stumping, assisted with run outs and let no byes go through as a wicketkeeper in 194.1 overs of ODI cricket.
However, he has made only 31 runs in four starts, the bulk of which came in 22 off 17 balls in New Zealand's loss to England at Nottingham.

His licence to thrill at the top of the order could be transferred to No 6 or No 7 where he, and the likes of Brendon and Nathan McCullum, could rattle through the last 10 overs.

It seems counterproductive to keep exposing Kane Williamson at No 3 before he's had a team talk with his thigh pad.

Franklin is familiar with facing the new ball in English conditions, it offers him more purpose than he has in the current line-up and gives New Zealand a pesky left-hand/right-hand combination if he joins Martin Guptill.

In the four ODI matches in England before tonight, Franklin had spent minimal time at the crease and has taken no wickets for 93 from 13 overs of bowling.

Former coach John Wright first flirted with the idea of Franklin opening in limited overs but he has ended up doing it only twice at international level, both last year in T20s when he made 60 from 37 balls against Zimbabwe and 35 from 36 against Bangladesh.

Surely it's an option worth investigating. Coach Mike Hesson has already indicated Franklin is the squad's back-up opener.

Evidence from 2010 might swing the decision in Franklin's favour. On the New Zealand periphery after a number of injury-hampered seasons, he indulged in a solid summer of county cricket under John Bracewell at Gloucestershire.

Franklin produced an excellent return opening or at first-drop. In the 40-over competition, he averaged 73 - making a couple of hundreds and fifties with a strike rate of 92.

In the T20 matches, he averaged 39.16 but stepped the strike rate up to 130. A highlight was an aggressive 90 from 50 balls against Sussex when he was described as "not once slogging'' by Cricinfo. It did not stop him denting a car with one of his three sixes; the last of which broke his bat.

Similarly for Essex last season, he faced the new ball in the majority of his 10 T20 innings. He averaged 27.55 with a top score of 78 and a strike rate of 111.

Pushing him up the order could be a tweak which enables New Zealand to hum at full capacity.

- Herald on Sunday

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