Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: A victory for perseverance

Record test debut stunned pundits.
Colin de Grandhomme had done little to suggest he was capable of a six-wicket bag on his test debut. Picture / Photosport
Colin de Grandhomme had done little to suggest he was capable of a six-wicket bag on his test debut. Picture / Photosport

Hands up those who are still stunned at Colin de Grandhomme's test debut.

There were probably even more of us who were staggered he was called into the test squad for Christchurch and then picked to start the opening test against Pakistan.

Statistics and glimpses of his work for Auckland suggested de Grandhomme was a useful all-rounder but not up to international standard in batting or bowling.

He was a good fielder, a powerful hitter whose innings often ended with an ineffective smite and whose bowling was more back-up than wipe 'em out stuff.

He was a handy player at first-class level, useful with the ball on the juicier tracks before Christmas and someone who could hit a long ball and suited the shorter versions of the game.

However, the 30-year-old became the posterman for perseverance and a nugget for the test selectors after his gentle swing bowling sent six Pakistani batsmen back to the hutch for 41 runs - a New Zealand record on debut.

Even when New Zealand bowled first, it felt strange de Grandhomme was called up as first change ahead of specialist quick Neil Wagner. You had to doff your Black Cap to another piece of astute judgement from Kane Williamson.

The big man with a physique more rugby than cricket battled his nerves to find the right line and length, and regular mistakes from the visitors, and New Zealand were on the march.

Apparently his economy of pace matches his thrifty conversation.

"I just tried to put it in the area I wanted to bowl and they managed to do their bit, so it's all good," was his assessment.

Sit down all of us who thought the selectors had lost the plot. Let's be honest, that's most of us.

In 2012, the selectors called up the Harare-born all-rounder for a solitary one-day international and a few T20 games but that peripheral connection looked his international lot.

A week ago, the golden gunslinger shot holes in that theory with his stunning debut. It was a blessed intersection of fortune and skill as de Grandhomme took full advantage of his inclusion, New Zealand winning the toss, the subtle juice in the Hagley Oval track and the awkward resistance from Pakistan.

He brought a hardened attitude to a tougher game. He coped with all the tension, faced any personal anxieties, doubts and the public disquiet, and set New Zealand on their way.

He has to start today's second test at Seddon Park in Hamilton along with all-rounder Mitchell Santner, who has recovered from a wrist injury to bring his spin and determined batting to his home track.

De Grandhomme has moved ahead of other all-rounders Todd Astle, Jimmy Neesham, Corey Anderson, Doug Bracewell, Mark Craig and Colin Munro.

This is big-time for de Grandhomme as the New Zealand cricket programme moves towards the Chappell-Hadlee one day series with Australia before Christmas then visits from Bangladesh, Australia and South Africa to finish with a late March test back at Seddon Park.

It's some way ahead but after de Grandhomme's entrance, who's going to say he won't be there to square up against his old neighbours.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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