Mark Chapman has a sense of occasion about him. As he put it of his debut for New Zealand, this is ''not a bad series to come into''.

You could say. The young Auckland lefthander will play his fourth T2 international in tonight's Tri-series final against Australia at Eden Park.

He is an eye-catching batsman and his scores, 20 (off 20 balls), 16 (14) and 37 not out (30) in New Zealand's round robin games against England, Australia and England respectively have been encouraging without him being able to make a really big statement.

''I've enjoyed my time out in the middle so far,'' Chapman said.


''With the likes of Martin Guptill, Colin Munro and Kane Williamson going really well my role has been slightly smaller. I try and finish the innings rather than set up a big score.''
Big scores have been his lot for Auckland of late.

In the domestic T20, Chapman made 307 runs at 34.11 with a strike rate of 171.5, including a 58-ball ton against Canterbury on New Year's Day.

He has averaged 86.6 in the 50-over Ford Trophy, with the leading aggregate of 433 runs and two centuries, both against Wellington.

How Auckland would like him around for tomorrow's trophy elimination final against Canterbury at Colin Maiden Park.

There's been nothing complicated about Chapman's instructions from the dressing room – essentially back yourself and bat as you have to win your place in the team.

He knew he was close earlier in the season. National selection boss Gavin Larsen flagged as much when he said publicly Chapman had been unlucky to miss out in the Pakistan series, Tom Bruce and Ross Taylor winning the backing for middle order spots in a three-sided battle.

''Gavin called me and said I was unlucky, so for me it was a matter of keeping on scoring runs and I've managed to do that in the Ford Trophy,'' Chapman said.

The 23-year-old is no stranger to international cricket. Born in Hong Kong, where his parents were based, he boarded at Kings College in Auckland but was eligible to play for Hong Kong in International Cricket Council associate member matches.

Chapman played 19 of his 22 T20s for Hong Kong; the first of his two ODIs produced an unbeaten 124 against the United Arab Emirates in Dubai three years ago.

He's a well-travelled player too and is in no doubt his time playing for Hong Kong has helped his development. The standard may have been lower than he's experiencing now, but there was more to it than that.

''For sure, I definitely feel my experience with Hong Kong has been invaluable.

''Associate cricket is reasonably cut throat. Every game you play there's funding on the line, or qualifying for World Cups.

''The pressure they play under is immense and it stood me in good stead coming into this level.''

He had an uncomfortable moment against Australian quick bowler Billy Stanlake at Eden Park last Friday night, a short ball deflecting off his arm onto his grill, and then onto his stumps. His first thoughts were frustration that he'd missed hitting the ball.

''I definitely try and play an aggressive and attacking brand of cricket. The nature of smaller grounds and flat pitches is a by-product of that, but I enjoy going out and trying to put my skills on show, but mix that with a bit of game smarts too.''

Chapman, who has finished his mechanical engineering degree at Auckland University, is a batting entertainer.

Along with so many of the new breed of batsmen coming to the top in international cricket, there's little sign of apprehension.

Chapman has piles of dash and daring in his strokeplay, looks to dispatch the ball 360 degrees with his range of shots, both orthodox and exotic.

Play a meaningful part in a New Zealand win tomorrow night and his fascinating career path will take another little step in the right direction.

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