Andrew Alderson

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

Cricket: Fulton future in balance

Batsman Peter Fulton struggled to make run over this past summer. Photo / Getty Images
Batsman Peter Fulton struggled to make run over this past summer. Photo / Getty Images

The New Zealand cricket selection panel of Bruce Edgar and Mike Hesson face a measure of their loyalty to Peter Fulton when the 15-man squad for the three-test tour to the West Indies is named on Tuesday.

The Herald on Sunday understands the prospect of Fulton continuing his 22-test career is under threat from Canterbury team-mate Tom Latham after a summer when he struggled opening the batting against India and the West Indies.

In nine test innings, the 35-year-old averaged 13.66, failing to get past 13 in all but his first outing of 61 against the West Indies in Dunedin. That form was consistent with his Canterbury Plunket Shield record (25.75 in 10 innings) but contrasted with strong Ford Trophy (47.40 in seven innings) and HRV Cup (48 in six innings) campaigns.

In a case of a strength being a weakness, Fulton often played sweetly through mid-wicket in tests but looked vulnerable to lbws on middle-and-leg. He was lbw in three of his four test innings against India.

That's despite a heroic international return in March 2013, which culminated in his becoming the fourth New Zealand batsman to score centuries in both innings of a test against England at Eden Park.

Fulton's opening partner Hamish Rutherford averaged 25.50 from nine innings last summer with a top score of 62 and anchoring the fourth innings chase with 48 not out to guide New Zealand to victory against the West Indies in Hamilton.

The pair fashioned an average opening partnership of 33.19 from 21 innings, a figure once in excess of 40. Last summer they averaged 23 from nine innings, just twice surviving more than 10 overs together.

Latham's debut for 0 and 29 in place of Ross Taylor against India in Wellington appeared calculated with the West Indies tour in the offing. He boasted 948 runs and topped the 2013-14 first-class averages with 79, including two double centuries against Wellington (241 not out) and Central Districts (261).

Martin Guptill is another opening option, averaging 74.66 in 10 innings for Auckland, and team-mate Jeet Raval and Otago's Aaron Redmond remain in the frame averaging a shade over 40.

The other talking point will be which spinner joins Ish Sodhi on what are expected to be low, spinning wickets in Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana.

One-test leg spinner Todd Astle shapes as favourite for a recall. He took 37 Plunket Shield wickets at 30.48 in the victorious Canterbury side. That included 14 for 234, the season's only 10-wicket bag, against Central Districts.

Jeetan Patel is an off-spinning variation considering the West Indies left-hand heavy batting order. He returned 18 wickets at 47.33 in four-dayers but delivered 10 wickets at 25.10 at an economy rate of 3.77 in Wellington's Ford Trophy success. Patel has returned to Warwickshire for another season - he was their 2013 player of the year with 52 wickets at 30.01.

Mark Gillespie and Matt Henry look strong contenders to challenge for the final pace bowling spot in Doug Bracewell's expected absence. The 34-year-old Gillespie topped the Plunket Shield wicket-taking table with 42 at 32.90, but, at 22, Henry is tipped as a top prospect. He took 17 wickets at 27.11 and made a strong ODI debut with 4-38 against India in Wellington.

- Herald on Sunday

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