Cricket: Latham a shining light for Black Caps

By David Leggat

Call Tom Latham the shining light in this New Zealand batting operation and he'd probably shrug and not feel particularly comfortable.

The Canterbury lefthander is a team first kind of guy but there's no doubting as New Zealand have struggled since the start of the test series in India, Latham has been the exception.

In nine innings of various forms and status, Latham has made five half centuries. Five of his team mates have made one 50 each, and that's it.

He had his troubles with class offspinner Ravi Ashwin in the test series, but you'd hardly call him the Lone Ranger in that respect.

Ashwin snared Latham twice in the first test at Kanpur, and once each in Kolkata and Indore. But Latham's run of scores reads: 55 retired, 25 retired, 58, 2, 1, 74, 53, 6, 79 not out.

The last score, in Dharamsala on Sunday night, earned him a special place as only the 10th player in ODI cricket to carry his bat through a completed innings - and the first New Zealander to achieve the feat.

Only one New Zealander, former captain and coach Glenn Turner, has achieved the feat in tests, doing it twice, 43 against England at Lord's in 1969 and 223 against the West Indies in Jamaica in 1972.

Latham should be quietly chuffed, but without question the delight would be tempered by New Zealand's dismal batting performance which cost them a six-wicket loss.

''As an opener you want to spend as much time as possible (at the crease)," he said.

''Losing wickets at the other end dictated the way I had to play. I couldn't be as free as I wanted to throughout in the middle."

Three New Zealand batsmen fell to ill-timed shots in front of the wicket.

Corey Anderson drove hard to the right of deep mid off where he was smartly caught by Umesh Yadav; Luke Ronchi lamely chipped a catch to the same player; and Jimmy Neesham meekly lobbed a return catch to spinner Kedar Jadhav.

There were no issues there for Latham as he has his own method.

''The sweep is one of my favourite shots and it seems to work for me, especially in conditions which are slow and turning. I find it an easier option that hitting down the ground. It's a shot I like."

Latham is averaging 32.12 in his 39 ODIs. His strike rate is 76, on the slow side in the modern game, but expect that to rise in the coming months.

Before coming to India, Latham cashed in against the powderpuff Zimababwe attack to the tune of 105, 136 and 13, but struggled in South Africa, where he made just eight runs in three innings.

Still a long summer is unfolding for the unflashy 24-year-old batsman, who shows all the signs of becoming a significant figure in New Zealand batting lineups for the foreseeable future.

Batsmen to have carried their bat through a complete ODI innings

Grant Flower (Zimbabwe) 84 v England, Sydney 1994
Saeed Anwar (Pakistan) 103 v Zimbabwe, Harare, 1995
Nick Knight (England) 125 v Pakistan, Nottingham, 1996
Ridley Jacobs (West Indies) 49 v Australia, Manchester, 1999
Damien Martyn (Australia) 116 v New Zealand, Auckland, 2000
Herschelle Gibbs (South Africa) 59 v Pakistan, Sharjah 2000
Alex Stewart (England) 100 v West Indies, Nottingham, 2000
Javed Omar (Bangladesh) 33 v Zimbabwe, Harare 2001
Azhar Ali (Pakistan) 81 v Sri Lanka, Colombo, 2012
Tom Latham (NZ) 79 v India, Dharamsala, 2016

- NZ Herald

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