Who is the best Black Caps test bowler?
Tim Southee remains top dog in the New Zealand pace attack, to the extent that bowling coach Shane Bond believes he can reach No 1 in the world.
Bond rated Trent Boult's 10-wicket bag against West Indies at the Basin Reserve - including nine wickets on Friday alone - as one of the best spells he'd witnessed and just reward for an excellent past year. But more satisfying for Bond, as the New Zealand team reassemble in Hamilton today, was how the new ball duo were lifting each other to great heights.
"They complement each other, left arm and right arm, and they're good mates. It's started to click for Tim as well; he's working extremely hard off the park with his fitness and he's leading the attack brilliantly. It's taken some pressure off Trent, and in his own right he's bowling beautifully."
Bond keeps a close eye on the world test bowling rankings, currently headed by South African duo Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.
Before New Zealand's innings and 73-run win in the second test on Friday, Southee was 18th and Boult 21st. Southee took 11 wickets himself in the first two tests and was hitting his straps after making a measured recovery from ankle surgery.
"I always said to him [Southee] I thought he was a top-three guy and hopefully get all the way to the best fast bowler in the world. He's got that potential and he's only 25, and I've got no doubt he'll get there," Bond said.
After his 10-80 at the Basin, Boult moved to fourth-equal highest wicket-taker for 2013, with 41 at an average of 25.53. Southee played four fewer tests this year and sits 13th with 29 wickets at 27.82.
The question now is when the pair will share the new ball in one-day international cricket.
Boult has just eight ODIs to his name. But, with just 14 months till the World Cup and with 10 ODIs against West Indies and India beckoning, it seems the time is right for the left-armer to get his wish.
"He's a 140kmh guy who can swing the ball. He's got a good bouncer so he's got all the skills to take wickets up front. And he can whack the ball around a bit and he's a good fielder, so he's got all the tools to play ODI cricket and I know he is keen to," Bond said.
"With the amount of ODIs coming up he might get a chance to play that format. I certainly think he's got a future at it."
Coach Mike Hesson gave his players two days off at home after their comprehensive victory, which set up the chance of their first series victory at home against a top-eight opponent since 2006, also against West Indies. They begin preparations for Thursday's third test today, when various injury niggles will be reassessed.
Bond said the next few weeks would provide a tricky juggling act in keeping the bowlers fresh, but none would be willing to cede their places. He said left-armer Neil Wagner freely admitted he hadn't had his best two tests but still showed his class and stepped up with a vital spell on day three.
Bond felt the Seddon Park pitch might look greener than it actually plays, and the spinners could be a factor later on if recent history was a guide. He hoped the Basin Reserve surface would become the benchmark for New Zealand test pitches.
"I thought Wellington was perfect for us. It would be great to see another wicket like that rolled out. We have a stronger seam bowling attack so it's a case for us of using the hometown advantage and play to our strengths. When we go to the Caribbean in a few months' time, we're going to see dry, low, turning wickets."
West Indies, meanwhile, were hauled back onto the Basin by coach Ottis Gibson for open wicket practice on the scheduled fourth and fifth days. He implored his side to "man up" after delivering a post-match spray.
"The word embarrassed was mentioned. Lack of fight was mentioned. Those are things you don't want to be hearing too often in your dressing room," Gibson said.
- The Dominion Post
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