The inquiry came shortly after New Zealand's 12 for the second test against the South Africans had been named.

Chris Martin was not there, dropped for Neil Wagner as New Zealand sought a change of emphasis from its seam bowling attack.

"Do you think that will be the end of his career?" the questioner asked.

The first thought was that it very well may be.


Martin, New Zealand's third most successful test bowler behind Richard Hadlee and Dan Vettori, with 233 wickets in 71 tests since 2000, is 38. No question he's coming towards the end of his international career.

However, Martin is a resilient character, lean and fit. He has been written off before.

When he was dropped after the first test in the West Indies a few months ago, it was raised.

So too soon after when the same situation occurred in India. Even more so when he could not force his way into either test team in the two tests in Sri Lanka late last year.

Circumstances, injuries and form, could conspire to have him back in the frame by the time the tests against England roll around in March.

Martin returns to Auckland who have a bank of Plunket Shield games coming up, starting with a visit to Hamilton on January 24. He'll need a strong block of work.

Straw clutching? Perhaps. Should he be written off automatically? In short it is not necessarily a full stop on a fine career, although he was certainly down on pace and penetration in Cape Town and the clock is ticking loudly.

However, the quartet of Tim Southee - once fit again - Doug Bracewell, Trent Boult and Wagner have the inside running for the foreseeable future.

The first three, aged between 24 and 22, have years on their side, and their growing pile of experiences in test cricket will be serving them well in terms of their international education. Wagner is slightly older, 26, but deserves another chance in Port Elizabeth.

Southee, Bracewell and Boult have taken, respectively, 65, 43 and 29 wickets going into the Port Elizabeth test. The first two average over 30 per wicket; Boult 28.79.

Then there's Mitchell McClenaghan - on the South African tour and having had a taste of action in the T20 series - knocking on the door, while Central Districts' Adam Milne, providing he can get fit for a sustained period, is an interesting longer term proposition.

Speculation is all ifs and buts. It could be the last has been seen in the test game of the long arms pumping on his approach to the stumps.

The younger players talk of him as a reliable sounding board. His experience provides wisdom for those making their way in the test game.

Martin's test career started in South Africa and may have ended here too. If so it's fitting in one sense. His record against them is particularly good. If it is, the durable seamer can reflect on a highly impressive career.