Cricket: Here comes the Sheriff, with all guns blazing

By David Leggat

Here comes the Sheriff, with all guns blazing

BJ Watling's batting is an extra strength. Photo / Getty Images
BJ Watling's batting is an extra strength. Photo / Getty Images

Corey Anderson coined the term, and if BJ Watling carries on as he is playing now, it'll probably stick.

"The Sheriff", said Anderson, in describing the little wicketkeeper's ability to make important runs batting with the lower order.

There are those who champion Wellington's Luke Ronchi as the best pure gloveman in the country. Ronchi is also a highly capable batsman.

But Watling is the man "in possession" and he's not for shifting any time soon.

A glance at Watling's numbers show he's developing into a savvy operator well worth his place with the current crop.

Take it a stage further, and when he's played as a specialist wicketkeeper, Watling's batting numbers soar.

The Northern Districts player made his test debut as an opener against Pakistan in Napier in 2009.

His first test could have had a spectacular ending. Chasing 208 in a hurry on the final afternoon, Watling got to 60 at run-a-ball rate before the rain snuffed out a probable New Zealand win.

But from his first test as designated wicketkeeper, when he scored an unbeaten century against Zimbabwe at Napier early last year, Watling's average jumps from 36 to 48.42.

He missed nine tests as keeper last year because of a hip injury, but returned to keeping duties in South Africa last January.

This year he has made 576 runs at 41.1 in 17 innings. He missed one test, against England at Leeds, because of a bruised knee, but has become an integral part of the New Zealand side.

In Chittagong in October he shared a 127-run last wicket stand with Trent Boult on his way to a second test hundred.

Watling oversaw 187 runs in his innings for the last four wickets.

It is a particular skill not all batsmen have. Australian captain Steve Waugh springs to mind, and current wicketkeepers Brad Haddin, Matt Prior and MS Dhoni have form in that department.

There may be doubts over 28-year-old Watling's glovework at times, and he may never be a Smith or Parore in that respect, but he's no slouch, has bundles of energy, and the right gee-up qualities keepers need.

And after all the speculation over his best batting position, those who figured No 7 was the slot for him are being proved right.

"I think he's just a smart cricketer. He takes that responsibility really well," Anderson said.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a4 at 20 Oct 2014 22:13:52 Processing Time: 494ms