Cricket: Maiden century spur to kick on

By David Leggat

Rutherford focused on mental side and keeping things simple.

Since hitting 171 against England last March, Hamish Rutherford has reached 40 just once in 11 innings.
Since hitting 171 against England last March, Hamish Rutherford has reached 40 just once in 11 innings.

You'd imagine the details of scoring a century on test debut would be etched in the mind.

Not so, insists New Zealand opener Hamish Rutherford, who is preparing for his first test back on his home turf since hitting 171 against England last March.

It was a memorable start for the son of the former New Zealand captain, an innings full of vim, cracking shots and a lack of nerves at the occasion.

But Rutherford says the innings has turned into something of a blur.

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"When you have a special moment like that I actually don't remember a lot of them," he said.

"I just remember the comfortable feeling, obviously because I've played a lot of cricket there.

"It almost felt like another game, instead of making out, oh it's my test debut, type of thing. I don't have a lot of memories, to be honest," he said.

For some time, the lefthander had seemed destined to make it to the top. And when it arrived, you could not accuse Rutherford of failing to take his chance.

Since then, some hard realities of international cricket have landed on him. Four ODIs have produced just 15 runs; seven T20 internationals only 151 runs at an admittedly respectable 25.

His test average from seven tests is a useful 33.91, but since that fabulous entry Rutherford has reached 40 just once in 11 innings.

Contrasting challenges in England and Bangladesh have tested him, and yet the player is adamant he feels as confident now as he did on those days at University Oval nine months ago.

"I'm feeling really good. I haven't really stopped feeling good.

"Getting thirties and starts is not quite pushing on, but from a technical point of view things are looking solid and sound. Now it's more about getting the mental aspect in order."

And for that read the distinction between limited overs and test cricket, or as the players call it white ball vs red ball.

Where the priority in T20, and to a lesser extent in 50-over cricket, is getting on with the job with some haste, other imperatives are at play in first-class or test cricket.

To Rutherford, who has gone in first with level-headed experienced Peter Fulton in all his test innings, it's not necessarily about being more circumspect or patient.

"I try to keep things very similar from the red and white ball. I try to keep it very simple and not try to change the way I go about it.

"I still try to treat each ball on its merits. It's more about trying to bat sessions, bat time and working on small things like that which is the big difference."

Rutherford believes getting back into the feel of the long game, getting one good lengthy innings under the belt, can lead to good habits.

"You get that rhythm of batting long periods of time. That's the main thing about getting some practice like last week, which was good."

Rutherford was referring to the New Zealand selection game against a makeshift West Indies side, including several ring-ins.

He scored two half-centuries and got a good look at a couple of the tourists' seam bowling test candidates, Shannon Gabriel and Sheldon Cottrell.

So new opponents, fresh challenges and Rutherford is hitting the ball sweetly. He won't be thinking about that England hundred this week.

Instead, "it's about getting that mental state right, focusing on each ball and not getting too far ahead of myself".

Hamish Rutherford
Age: 24
Tests: 7
Runs: 407, at 33.91
Highest score: 171 v England, Dunedin, March 2013

- NZ Herald

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