Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Franklin open to facing new ball

James Franklin. Photo / Getty Images
James Franklin. Photo / Getty Images

As New Zealand and England embark on a candidate for "most short-horned series in cricket history" with their two T20 matches, there is no shortage of motivation for James Franklin.

With the introduction of all-rounder prospects Corey Anderson, Colin Munro and Jimmy Neesham, Franklin is playing for his livelihood as next year's contracted players are revealed within a fortnight.

Franklin admits as much, having spent minimal time batting and taking no wickets for 113 from 15 overs in New Zealand's six ODI matches in England.

He front-foots any criticism with disarming honesty. "It's frustrating when I didn't make a significant contribution either with bat or ball."

The 32-year-old is renowned for his versatility, which may have been a hindrance in an international career stretching back to 2001.

"I've never really nailed down a certain position," Franklin concedes. "But I've been around long enough to know you have to adapt when asked."

Franklin gives the impression he's confronted the demons of his inability to translate often impeccable domestic form to the international stage. One theory doing the rounds is a curiosity as to how he might go opening in the shorter formats.

As a fellow left-hander, Hamish Rutherford is opening with Martin Guptill in T20s for now but is Franklin a viable option? Few players time the ball more sweetly when in form and anecdotal evidence suggests he has the power.

Franklin says he'd willingly accept the task if offered.

"I love [opening] because you can play without too much fear, get the team off to a good start and dictate the pace of the innings.

"I've had a couple of goes at international level [he made 60 from 37 balls against Zimbabwe and 35 from 36 against Bangladesh in 2012]. It gave me a great opportunity to have a crack."

Franklin is familiar with facing the new ball in English conditions and such a role might offer him more purpose in the current limited overs line-up, be it for 50 overs (where Luke Ronchi struggled over six innings in England) or 20.

In 2010, in the English 40-over competition, he averaged 73 opening or at first-drop for Gloucestershire. He made a couple of 100s and 50s with a strike rate of 92. New Zealanders have rarely seen this side of him.

In the T20 matches, he averaged 39.16 but stepped the strike rate up to 130. 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.

Former coach John Wright flirted with the idea of Franklin opening in limited overs but it's a concept worth reviewing with a World T20 in Bangladesh next year.

- NZ Herald

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