Black Cap Grant Elliott creates a buzz

BY JONATHAN MILLMOW
Last updated 23:24 09/02/2009

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Last year he looked out of his depth at international level. Now Grant Elliott is New Zealand's man of the moment.

An affable man with his own tiny bat company called Buzz has written himself into the records books.

Grant Elliott, the son of a South African plastic surgeon, became the first New Zealand batsman to score a one-day century at the Sydney Cricket Ground with the innings of his life against Australia on Sunday.

To put it bluntly, Elliott's three-day batting blitz 61 not out in Melbourne and his 115 at the SCG has stunned cricket followers, but those that know him best say last year's unconvincing displays at test level were the result of being over-anxious.

Former New Zealand test skipper Ken Rutherford was captain of Gauteng in the mid-1990s when Elliott was signed up as a future star, only for the quota system to block his path. Rutherford recommended a switch to New Zealand, but then Canterbury didn't rate him and Wellington played him as a bowler.

"Technically, he was and is very strong," Rutherford said from Singapore yesterday.

"There was little doubt he would succeed, given opportunities. The surprising thing to me has been his apparent lack of self-belief until now, that is.

"I reckon, now he has the confidence and the knowledge that he can do it at the highest level, the next few years could see Grant really prosper."

Current Wellington coach Anthony Stuart has a list as long as your arm of examples when Elliott has bailed the Firebirds out of trouble with the bat.

So the past four days haven't surprised him?

"Not at all," Stuart, a former Australian pace bowler said.

"He's a tough cookie, he's determined, he's committed and he's got a high work ethic. I've seen him play like this for the last 2 1/2 years, it's just been at a level down and away from the spotlight.

"We were 130-4 against Canterbury one day, chasing 600, and he came out after bowling 42 overs and got us past their total.

"And in the same season we were 50-4 in a one-day game, chasing 250, and he hit a four off the last ball to win us the game."

Elliott's run-scoring spree might also be good for business. He lost his bat sponsor last summer so took the bull by the horns and teamed up with Wellington team-mates Luke Woodcock and Mark Houghton to import willow from India.

The manner of Elliott's run-scoring has also caught the eye of the man that matters: former batting great and now convener of the national selection panel Glenn Turner.

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A hard man to please, Turner regarded the execution of some of Elliott's offside play last Sunday as exceptional.

"He's got a very good off-side game, the bat comes down the line better than most," Turner said.

"His hallmark shot, the lofted drive over extra cover, is quite impressive. He has good control playing that.

"He's also a thoughtful character. He can apply his knowledge to the situation. Even though he hasn't been around long, he has sorted things out correctly."

Turner admits Elliott's two most recent innings have rocketed him into test contention.

"He deserves to be looked at in all forms of the game because he has shown he can adjust.

"Put it this way: as selectors, you tend to hope that most people select themselves through performance and, if he keeps playing the way he does, he makes it pretty easy for us."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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