Neesham's gain could be pain for Anderson

TWICE AS GOOD: Black Caps all-rounder Jimmy Neesham has scored centuries in his first two tests.
TWICE AS GOOD: Black Caps all-rounder Jimmy Neesham has scored centuries in his first two tests.

Two years ago when New Zealand last toured the West Indies they were crying out for an all-rounder.

Now coach Mike Hesson faces the discomfort of having no place in his test 11 for Corey Anderson, the Indian Premier League's $866,000 man and owner of the world's fastest one-day international century.

It's not a bad problem to have, but a slight headache nonetheless after Jimmy Neesham became the first New Zealander and eighth cricketer to score a century in his first two tests.

The 23-year-old is a guaranteed starter at No 6 now, and it's hard to see where Anderson fits in unless injury strikes one of the batsmen.

If conditions moved New Zealand to drop a spinner for the second test at Port-of-Spain, fellow left-armer Neil Wagner is next bowling cab off the rank.

The Black Caps have sought a batting all-rounder good enough to play at No 6 since Chris Cairns retired from test cricket in 2004.

Jacob Oram, James Franklin and Daniel Vettori were all candidates but injury or inconsistency got in the way.

Hesson's selections have largely been smart, although his persistence with Peter Fulton is wearing thin.

Interestingly, Neesham was seen as a 135kmh bowling all-rounder who could hit a long ball, and got there via a lucky break in both his first two tests; in Wellington in February when Doug Bracewell had a broken foot and this week when Anderson suffered what was described as a neck injury two days out.

Yesterday Neesham had the swagger of someone who knew he deserved to be there, particularly when he strode down the wicket and deposited off-spinner Shane Shillingford over his head for six, twice in the one over.

"Anyone who starts well is always going to have to deal with expectations from that point on. I've been put in good stead playing a fair bit of first-class cricket before coming into the test match arena so I'll hopefully be able to keep my head level and move on and look to perform in the next game," Neesham said.

His first-class numbers for Otago aren't startling; averaging 35 with the bat and 32 with the ball over 25 matches, before this week's test.

But Auckland-born Neesham impressed with his composure on debut against India at the Basin Reserve as his 137 not out guided Brendon McCullum through to his triple-century.

He earned an IPL contract with Delhi Daredevils but saw minimal game time.

After his 107 off 171 balls yesterday, which propelled the Black Caps to 508-7 declared on a slow pitch offering few terrors, his test average stands at 138.5.

He became the first New Zealander to score centuries in his first two tests, and the eighth overall. The others were Australia's Bill Ponsford, Doug Walters and Greg Blewett, India's Mohammad Azharuddin, Sourav Ganguly and Rohit Sharma (against West Indies last year), and the West Indies' Alvin Kallicharran.

Neesham was the only one to spread it over two series.

Now assured of at least a draw from this test, New Zealand were hellbent on proving they could transfer their home form overseas, where they've struggled with nine defeats from their last 12 tests.

"We had a big inkling that they would play two spinners, and that playing spin would be a part of putting up a good first innings total; hopefully we played them all right and set up the tone for the series," he said.

"There's a little bit of pressure on our team, mainly from the fact we had a good summer at home and we all want to continue forward with that success and put it together in away games."

The Dominion Post