'Finishing school' planned for NZ A team

GEOFF LONGLEY
Last updated 05:00 04/10/2012

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More New Zealand A series are on the agenda as New Zealand Cricket seeks to bridge the yawning gap between domestic and international competition.

New Zealand A will play a return series against India A at the same time next year in India, replicating the series staged at Bert Sutcliffe Oval in Lincoln over the past month.

"It is absolutely essential to provide a finishing school for our cricketers and the A series does that," national selection manager Kim Littlejohn said.

"Too often, probably, in the past players have been parachuted in to sink or swim and for every [Brendon] McCullum, [Daniel] Vettori or [Kane] Williamson that makes it, another four or five don't and are cast aside."

Littlejohn said they planned to build a system from national under-19 level where those players did not just have a world cup but also regular home and away tours to enhance development.

"From that they will flow on through domestic play to the New Zealand A programme," he said.

Littlejohn said the series against India A had been an eye opener for some players, realising how much work was required to breakthrough at the highest level.

He said the value of the series, which ends this week with the second four-day match, was two-fold.

The series aimed to develop younger players but also give prospective Black Caps the chance to shine ahead of tours, with the next to Sri Lanka this month.

The Black Caps team for the Sri Lanka tour, which comprises one Twenty20 match, five one-dayers and two tests, will be named next week, with the appointment of a bowling coach expected before the team departs.

Of those in contention for the tour but not playing in Lincoln or returning from the World T20 in Sri Lanka, pace bowler Chris Martin is in South Africa with Auckland for the Champions League qualifying series while left-arm speedster Trent Boult is managing a minor groin injury. However, Boult is expected to be fit for selection.

Batsman Daniel Flynn, who played in the one-dayers against India A but not the first-class games, is regarded as having a test spot.

Littlejohn said attacking left-arm quick Neil Wagner was left out of the playing XI yesterday, partly to see how the remaining pace bowlers fared without a spearhead.

They struggled on an easy-paced surface, with Brent Arnel the only one to bolster his claims, returning the best figures of 3-70 from 22 overs as India A amassed 433-4 from 88.2 overs.

The India A innings featured a brilliant 304-run fifth-wicket stand between Mandeep Singh and Ashok Menaria, who were both unbeaten on 160.

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