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Jimmy Neesham is the latest to swagger on to the New Zealand openers' merry-go-around as the hunt steps up for a reliable test and one-day duo at the top.
Coach Mike Hesson confirmed Neesham would open, probably with Kane Williamson, in the tour-ending Twenty20 internationals against West Indies in Dominica on Sunday and Monday with a view to bigger assignments. Hesson said Neesham was being seriously considered as an opener for this summer's World Cup, meaning he and fellow all-rounder Corey Anderson fit into the top six.
"This is a really good opportunity to see how he goes and there could be some other opportunities leading up to the World Cup. He's certainly excited about doing it and it's something he's certainly got a good skill set for," Hesson said.
Neesham said yesterday he would not be averse to opening in any format, if required. The left-hander batted in the top-three with his former province Auckland but his international career has been largely in positions six to eight. In four tests he has been a revelation, scoring 448 runs, including two centuries; and his imperious knock of 51 off 67 balls at Bridgetown helped turn the deciding test New Zealand's way.
New Zealand's cricketing stocks are soaring after their 2-1 test series win, but their opening combinations are a problem area.
Jesse Ryder and Martin Guptill are the incumbent one-day opening pair but Ryder's international career remains in limbo due to his issues with alcohol, which came to a head during the test in Auckland in February.
Hesson insisted the door was not shut on Ryder, although the left-hander's signing with the Melbourne Renegades for the Australian T20 Big Bash in January suggests the World Cup is not high on the player's radar.
"We'll make a judgment on whether we think he's in our frame or not. He's made plans for himself in January and that's up to him."
Guptill averaged 43 in the one-day series with India but struggled for timing and strike rate, and remains out of the test frame. Hesson said Guptill had been working with batting great Martin Crowe for several months to improve his technique.
Tom Latham was an impressive opener, averaging 48 in the three tests in the Caribbean, and is a leading contender for a World Cup opening berth too.
Hesson said Latham, Hamish Rutherford and Anton Devcich would all get chances at the top in nine one-day matches on the coming New Zealand A tour of England. Rutherford's form and technical issues remain a big issue after he averaged 9.75 from four test innings against West Indies.
He, Latham and young Otago batsman Michael Bracewell are in the NZ A squad for two three-day county matches, with Bracewell in the box seat to push his case for New Zealand's next test series against Pakistan in November.
Hesson confirmed Dean Brownlie was a middle order batsman in the NZ A squad and would need to prove himself as an opener for Northern Districts.
- The Dominion Post
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