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Cricket: Ferguson on a fast trip to top

At 150km/h, Lockie Ferguson can be a handful for batsmen. Photo / photosport.nz
At 150km/h, Lockie Ferguson can be a handful for batsmen. Photo / photosport.nz

Lockie Ferguson's deliveries can be hard to see, but keep an eye out for the Auckland pace bowler's name on a Black Caps team sheet this season.

New Zealand are understood to be in the market for someone who can deliver accurately at around 150km/h. Adam Milne's persistent injuries mean he is sidelined, having played just 33 ODIs and 18 T20s since his international debut against Pakistan on Boxing Day 2010.

Ferguson has had his own share of niggles, via his back, hamstrings, calves and gluteal muscles. However, anyone approaching Shane Bond-like velocities automatically triggers the selection antennae.

With Tim Southee and Trent Boult generally bowling in the 130km/h bracket, there's room for someone to assume the pace mantle.

Ferguson has 15 wickets at 19.80 in this season's Plunket Shield to complement 31 wickets at 22.12 last year. The 25-year-old's career average after debuting in 2012-13 is 74 wickets at 24.68, striking every 45 balls.

Observing his relaxed run-up might raise an eyebrow as to how he generates such whip. Then he leaps into his delivery stride and, in what seems sleight-of-hand, the ball suddenly appears up around a batsman's head and shoulders. It's an act of deceptive menace.

Otago No 3 Ryan Duffy is among several domestic batsmen who can attest to Ferguson's aggression. He took a dint to the helmet at Eden Park Outer Oval last month which resulted in both his dismissal and concussion.

Ferguson says it can be hard justifying such tactics, yet they form a key part in building cricketing success.

"It's a touchy subject but guys can choose to swing at the ball and risk getting out, or top batsmen will play it better. I'm not specifically looking to hurt anyone, but being aggressive is one way fast bowlers can change the game.

"I had a chat to Ryan afterwards. Luckily the safety equipment prevented anything worse."

The radar clocked Ferguson at 155km/h during pre-season at Lincoln.

"I was stoked about that, but who knows how accurate it was? I like to think I'm pushing 150km/h, though. Obviously in first-class cricket, you can't do it all day long, otherwise I'd snap in two, but when the time is right, I can push the pace up.

"I had a good chat with Hess [New Zealand coach Mike Hesson] during a winter camp and got some honest feedback on how I'm tracking. Hopefully, I'm knocking on the door."

Ferguson says the optical illusion of his action pivots on his shoulder movement.

"I've done a lot of work with [former New Zealand bowler] Andre Adams. His action had that pause at the top and then snapped like a gun to get it done as quickly as possible. He keeps it simple for me. The most important part is making the action repeatable."

Adams said: "I met Lockie about four years ago. He's tenacious and asks lots of questions. He's not a 'yes' man. You have to qualify everything you say.

"He blows a few batsmen out of the water, but has worked hard to get his body right. He has insane explosive power at the point of delivery. He even blew his toe off in the process, and was told he'd never play top level sport again."

Adams refers to an incident in which Ferguson tore the joint capsule of the pinky off his right foot, which caused plenty of soft tissue damage. It's holding up fine now.

Ferguson's first quantum shift came at Auckland Grammar School when former first XI coach Richard Irving spotted him in an under-15 tournament.

"He was big and strong and, while his action was a bit ropey, he terrorised other kids with his quick release. I gave him a shot at the first XI at the end of fourth form [Year 10], which was rare at Grammar, but he's always had raw pace and power. Lockie's always been quite unassuming, and those qualities don't seem to have abated. He didn't talk much, but had plenty of enthusiasm and earned a lot of respect.

"I remember he went to premier cricket out of school and I got a random call from a mate one Saturday evening saying he'd never faced anything as quick as 'this new guy Ferguson'."

International cricketers might offer similar sentiments by the end of the summer.

- NZ Herald

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