Cricket: Bruce bluffs his way into Black Caps gloves

By David Leggat

New Black Caps batsman Tom Bruce enjoyed his role as an emergency wicket-keeper. Photo / photosport.nz
New Black Caps batsman Tom Bruce enjoyed his role as an emergency wicket-keeper. Photo / photosport.nz

New Zealand's newest international Tom Bruce admitted he bluffed his way into taking the wicketkeeping gloves at Bay Oval on Thursday.

The tall Central Districts batsman had a day to savour. He made a bold, unbeaten 59 off just 39 balls to help Colin Munro take Bangladesh apart and set up the T20 series-clinching 47-run win, then stepped up when Luke Ronchi had to leave the field with a groin injury.

"It wasn't ideal having 'Ronks' go down, and I bluffed my way into the gloves I guess," Bruce said today.

"I just said I'd kept at the Gillette Cup (age group tournament) in a couple of games. That was about seven years ago. Ronks handed me the gloves and everyone was pretty happy with it."

Bruce made a good fist of the job, but it's not one he's necessarily that keen to repeat.

"I'd probably like it to be a fleeting one off. I didn't feel comfortable. It was pretty much like my batting, watch the ball and try and catch it when you can."

His batting is a different story. Bruce, born in Te Kuiti but long a resident of New Plymouth, gives the ball a decent thump and looks suited to an assertive approach.

He relished batting with centurymaker Munro, being able to rotate the strike and finding with Munro going gangbusters en route to 101 off 54 balls, he could play his natural game.

He also maintained a highly impressive record of making good runs early in his various careers for Central Districts.

Bruce caught the eye in his debut first-class season, 2014-15.

After making 54 on debut against Otago at Queenstown, he peeled off successive scores of 56, 94, 85, 14, 26, 80, 112 not out and 18 (against Canterbury in Nelson), 19, 50 and 24 - 632 runs at 57.45.

His Ford Trophy 50-over career in January, 2015, kicked off with 88 off 65 balls in a preliminary final against Otago, en route to helping CD win that title.

T20? No dramas. 83 not out off 51 balls against Otago in November 2015.

Bruce is averaging 46.51 in first-class cricket 34.81 from 11 List A matches and 36.64, with a cracking strike rate of 154 in T20s. No wonder the selectors have their eye on him.
Those numbers suggest a batsman who doesn't greatly battle with nerves when stepping up to a new challenge. Bruce demurs.

"There's nerves, but a lot of it is excitement at being there. You want to take opportunities with both hands, more wanting to do well for your team. That's what's spurred me on."

Australia and South Africa are still on the radar this season. Bruce wants it all eventually, including all three formats and in this sense a bit of greed is good.

"If I keep producing at domestic level, and in this T20 game tomorrow, that's all I can do, and help the Stags out in the one-day competition coming up. If you're producing good results the rest will take care of itself."

New Zealand need to find a third opener in the last T20 against Bangladesh tomorrow, with Neil Broom then Ronchi shying off with injuries after one game apiece.

George Worker would be a logical choice; Mitchell Santner or Jimmy Neesham might be longer shot options.

Bangladesh somehow need to pick themselves up. They've had chances - another five overs of Sabbir Rahman and Soumya Sarkar on Thursday, when they added 68 in just 6.4 overs, and things would have been interesting - but can't see the job through.

The two tests starting next Thursday in Wellington will be a tall order, so there's much at stake tomorrow as they bid for their first win in 19 matches in New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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