Blair Tickner was busting his lungs on the all-weather athletics track of the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park in Hastings last week when he received a phone call from a New Zealand Cricket selector to say he was in the Black Caps mix to play India in the final Twenty20 international tomorrow night.

"I was trying to get out of doing those runs but they told me to get back into it after taking the call," says Tickner who is at the cusp of making his debut for the marquee men's New Zealand team in the 8pm finale of the three-match ANZ T20 series at Seddon Park, Hamilton, from 8pm.

In many respects it's been pretty much a case of life in the fast lane for the 25-year-old Ruahine Motors Central Hawke's Bay premier men's club cricketer.

Tickner returned home to Napier in 2015-16 from the Gold Coast in Australia to see if he could eke out a professional career in the code.

Advertisement

"I'm pretty excited and really glad with the way things have gone over the years," he says, quietly pleased all the hard yards he has put in over the past three summers are now yielding dividends.

Nevertheless, the uncompromising right-arm seamer is happy with how he has been progressing, not just with the white ball but the red one as well, for his domestic tribe.

"As long as I'm there or thereabouts, in all three formats, I'll be happy," says the lanky bloke who hits the deck with venom and has the propensity to turn a match around for his Central Districts Stags team.

Tickner, who already has established himself in the domestic arena as a white-ball merchant and also no mug with the red ball, recognises it's an opportune time to showcase his skills, considering he'll be on a platform where national selectors will be twiddling their thumbs.

"You're in front of the selectors all the time and you're playing for your country so there's nothing better than putting your name out there. It is always a privilege."

Last summer he took at hattrick in the first innings against the Wellington Firebirds in the four-day Plunket Shield campaign for the champion Stags. He also was the leading Super Smash wicket taker, with 21 dismissals from 11 matches.

Incrementally, especially over the past two years, he has noticed his pace from deliveries packs more zing.

"It's now a lot more consistent so all together I've become a better player for it," he says, lauding Stags coach Heinrich Malan for his sermons to players to keep learning all the time.

Advertisement

Frequenting the gym for some strength and conditioning is also playing its part but for him the lowest common denominator is good old-fashioned hard yakka.

"You can't bowl fast and be everywhere so you have to be consistent at good levels because these guys are used to playing quick bowlers so you have to quickly adjust."

Blair Tickner is a big bloke who comes from a high point of release and tends to bowl at an uncomfortable length to tickle batsmen's ribs. Photo / Photosport
Blair Tickner is a big bloke who comes from a high point of release and tends to bowl at an uncomfortable length to tickle batsmen's ribs. Photo / Photosport

Tickner is frothing at the mouth with the prospect of trying to tickle the rib cage of India batsmen.

"It's really exciting because they are probably the world's best team at the moment so I'm really honoured to have a crack against them and to be part of the Black Caps."

Having done some time with the New Zealand A team this summer against India and Pakistan counterparts, he is much wiser for it.

"It's another step up but, I think, it's always more enjoyable playing against guys who are the benchmark so this should be exciting times."

He is accustomed to playing in smaller grounds around the country so won't feel daunted at Seddon Park in Hamilton.

Tickner wishes his CD teammates all the best in trying to secure a home Burger King Super Smash Twenty20 playoffs spot when they take on the Auckland Aces at Eden Park outer oval from 4pm today.

The Napier-born player spent a decade in the Gold Coast after his family emigrated there when he was a youngster.

He returned to the Bay late in 2015 after meeting fellow CHB and Pay Excellence Hawke's Bay senior men's representative cricketer Angus Schaw while the pair were playing against each other in Cambridge, England.

Over a few beers Schaw convinced the former Taradale Cricket Club age-group member to return to his birth region to play for CHB.

Tickner, a former Greenmeadows School pupil whose grandparents hail from Tikokino, saw it as an opportune time to catch up with friends and family.

After dutifully lugging out the snake lollies in the T20 format, he secured a full contract in 2016-17 season but has always been mindful maintaining it is another, on the basis that some else is always toiling one per cent harder than you.

Malan reaffirms Tickner's consistency in the white-ball format and isn't too far behind in reasserting himself as the real deal this summer.

"He keeps finding ways to keep getting wickets in the shorter format so that's a key ingredient from his bowling point of view and it's awesome for him to get recognition for that."

The NZ A coach says while the medium-fast bowler complements any attack he also brings a modicum of difference with variety in his deliveries.

"He's a big guy who comes from a high point of release and tends to bowl at an uncomfortable length so what he does with our [Seth] Rances and [Ben] Wheelers, who try to swing the ball, Blair then hits that hard line and length to make it uncomfortable for the batters."

Malan says it's an ideal time for Tickner to take those variables to the Black Caps crease.

CD Stags coach Heinrich Malan says Blair Tickner needs to trust his processes and enjoy the game if he gets the opportunity to play against India in the third T20 tomorrow. Photo / File
CD Stags coach Heinrich Malan says Blair Tickner needs to trust his processes and enjoy the game if he gets the opportunity to play against India in the third T20 tomorrow. Photo / File

While there's always a threat of road kill on the tracks in the country, he feels Tickner doesn't have to stray much from his blueprint too much against India batsmen who don't like to be put on a leash following a diet of some of the world's best competitions.

"Blair now goes in there on the back of some successful domestic competition for us as the Stags, which has got him into that position, so he just needs to go in there to trust his processes and enjoy the game, if he gets the opportunity to play the third game," he says of Tickner who is bracketed to replace strike bowler Lockie Ferguson, of Auckland.

Asked if CD top-order batsman William Young has been pigeon-holed as a red-ball specialist, Malan suspects it has probably more to do with the looming ICC ODI World Cup in England in May/June.

"We've only got three more [ODI and test each] games against Bangladesh so the next time they run out for the one-day internationals will be at the world cup," he says.

He believes the national selectors are adhering to a backbone of top-tier players for the past three years who would be successful at the world cup.

"I think you'd have to be pretty bold to make those sorts of changes so late in the piece."

However, Malan says, one hopes Young's time will come sooner rather than later for someone who has been successful in all formats for the past couple of years, including for NZ A this season.

He also likes to think Stags seamer Doug Bracewell, as an "out-an-out, first-change bowler", will be on the flight to England with his ability to mount pressure with his "super consistent line and length".

"I think we saw the other night how important it is that if you can't take wickets then you build pressure in the middle period."

Despite the dry summer in England, he feels the Duke ball there will give fast bowlers more seam and swing.