A dream week just keeps getting better for Hamish Rutherford, who's likely to be summoned tomorrow for his test debut against England.
The Otago left-hander was recalled for the second and third ODIs in place of the injured Martin Guptill, and the latter's impending thumb surgery has opened the door to the test side, too.
Rutherford and Peter Fulton, the in-form Canterbury batsman, are poised to form New Zealand's latest test opening duo, because of Guptill's series-ending thumb problem and captain Brendon McCullum's shift to No 5.
The skipper dropped a hint yesterday, confirming Guptill's injury wouldn't force a reshuffle and he and gloveman BJ Watling would both bat in the middle order. It appeared a good time to promote Watling, who played South Africa's pace the best of anyone, and summon Wellington's in-form Luke Ronchi to take the gloves, but that won't happen for the first test in Dunedin, at least.
"Ultimately we're looking to try to shift the balance of our experience a little bit lower with the middle order. And BJ did really well in South Africa batting down the order too. He's a lot more successful batting down the order, averaging 60-odd, than batting at the top," McCullum said.
"With an eye to the future it may be an opportunity for a new guy to be tried at the top."
That new guy, Rutherford, appears to have headed off a few contenders, including occasional test openers Daniel Flynn and Aaron Redmond. The former has had a few chances while the latter has scored nearly 1000 Plunket Shield runs at 58.5 but still has questionmarks over his temperament.
Rutherford averaged 40.6 in Plunket Shield this summer and his last three bats were worth 90 against Wellington, and 162 and 28 against Northern Districts. It seems a shade too soon for the 23-year-old but he's highly rated and just needs to rein himself in outside off stump.
Fulton was the chosen one in South Africa before suffering a knee injury. An average of 20.93 from 10 tests, the most recent against Pakistan in 2009, isn't world-beating. But he has a key backer in assistant coach Bob Carter and averages over 55 in Plunket Shield after a timely 98 against Auckland this week.
Left-armer Bruce Martin could snare the spinner's berth, and a long-awaited test debut at 32.
Martin was unlucky not to play in South Africa and is regarded by domestic batsmen as the best spinner in the country.
Jeetan Patel hasn't done enough, while thoughts of handing Nathan McCullum a test debut seem to have faded.
Wellington's Mark Gillespie could sneak into the squad ahead of Neil Wagner for the final pace bowler's berth, and New Zealand could do a lot worse than consider playing four pacemen. Gillespie's efforts against South Africa a year ago were compelling and he'll get a bowl at England's batsmen in Queenstown next week.
Likely New Zealand test squad: Brendon McCullum (captain), Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Dean Brownlie, BJ Watling, James Franklin, Bruce Martin, Tim Southee, Doug Bracewell, Trent Boult, Mark Gillespie.
- The Dominion Post
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