Cricket: Latham all set to step in for Taylor

By David Leggat

Tom Latham has made 687 Plunket Shield runs this summer for Canterbury. Photo / Getty Images
Tom Latham has made 687 Plunket Shield runs this summer for Canterbury. Photo / Getty Images

Tom Latham will prepare today as if he's making his test debut in the clutch second test against India starting at the Basin Reserve tomorrow.

The Canterbury lefthander is in the New Zealand squad as cover for Ross Taylor, whose wife, Victoria, is expected to give birth to a second child at some point this week.

No one is talking deadlines, but if the baby does not arrive early today the country's best batsman is expected to sit out the match.

So Latham, already a limited-overs international and in strong batting form, is working on the basis that he's in for a test in which New Zealand can register a notable series victory, provided they are not beaten by the world No2 Indians - not that that attitude rests comfortably with the hosts.

"Probably the best way to come into a team is when they're doing well," Latham said yesterday.

"There will be pressure on me but I've always wanted to play test cricket and it's a dream."

Latham will be half of the eighth New Zealand father-son combination to play test cricket if he's chosen. Father Rod played four tests in the early 1990s and was part of the World Cup squad in the storied summer of 1992.

Latham has made 687 Plunket Shield runs this summer for Canterbury, at 68.7, second only in aggregates to the perennially prolific, but unwanted Michael Papps.

That includes an unbeaten 241 against Wellington in December.

His cricket has been played this season as a opener, but he'll be required in the middle order if he plays in the test. Not that the 21-year-old is fazed by that.

"It's not a position unfamiliar to me. This is my first season opening for Canterbury.

"It's nice to have put those numbers on the board. The consistency is the most pleasing thing about it and it's nice the selectors have rewarded me for that."

Latham was one of two players brought in from the 40-run first test win and, through vastly different circumstances, both could be playing tomorrow.

There's an old dictum about not changing winning teams. That should never be a locked-in concept, and with a question mark over Taylor's availability and the thought that legspinner Ish Sodhi might be stood down in favour of allrounder Jimmy Neesham it is a real possibility.

By contrast, India are likely to stick with an unchanged lineup.

They have their top six batsmen locked in, and the three seamers - Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and veteran Zaheer Khan - were strong in New Zealand's weak second innings at Eden Park.

Sharma got some bad news yesterday, having been left out of India's world T20 squad. But his nine wickets in the first test were his best return for two and a half years.

That leaves left arm spinner Ravi Jadeja. He is a sparky type in the field, bowls tidily and is a dangerous batsman.

The option is the taller offspinner Ravi Ashwin, who has a fine record of 104 wickets in 19 tests and a couple of test hundreds, but lost his place two tests ago to Jadeja in Durban.

Ashwin is a more threatening spinner but Jadeja got six wickets at Durban, albeit in a losing cause.

However, captain MS Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher are known as selectors not prone to making changes.

The pitch, a distinct green yesterday, is expected to play similarly to that for the West Indies test before Christmas - that is, helpful to the seamers for much of the match, but with runs in it for the batsmen good enough to make use of conditions.

- NZ Herald

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