Opener stakes claim for surprise test call-up

Last updated 18:16 04/12/2012
Joseph Yovich
NOT INCLUDED: Joseph Yovich has missed out on a Northern Districts contract for the 2013/2014 season.

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Could a 35-year-old former tearaway fast bowler make a test debut as an opening bat  for New Zealand in South Africa?

When most domestic cricketers have long given the game away by that age, Northern Districts veteran Joseph Yovich has shown all the necessary attributes of a test opener for the defending Plunket Shield champions over the past year.

Yovich registered his second century of the first-class season at Hamilton's Seddon Park - in front of national selection manager Kim Littlejohn - as the hosts made 410-5 declared in the second innings of their fourth round match against the Canterbury Wizards.

At stumps on the penultimate day, Canterbury were 22 without loss chasing 425 for victory when rain stopped play 90 minutes early and bad weather looks likely to rule out the chance of a result today.

The left-handed Yovich was eventually dismissed for 128, carefully compiled off 291 balls in 341 minutes.

His average for the season is 50.75, and yesterday's knock took him to third spot in the list of highest runscorers in ND history on 4661 - behind James Marshall and Andy Roberts after this season overtaking current coach Grant Bradburn, NZ Cricket chief executive David White, former NZ international John Parker and longtime former team-mate Michael Parlane.

Yovich averages just a touch over 30 in first-class cricket - hardly compelling figures for a test inclusion.

But the majority of his career has seen him bat in the lower to middle order after beginning with the Knights chiefly as a raw quick bowler in the 1996/97 season.

Yovich developed into a dependable allrounder, with his batting becoming more reliable than his bowling in latter seasons. He was pushed into the opening spot during last year's corresponding Shield match and has flourished since.

Like the majority of left-handed openers, he knows his off stump's location, is rarely drawn into chasing the new ball needlessly and has his early scoring areas well-defined.

He has fashioned a method that suits his role and ability, and that, combined with vast experience and mental toughness, would ensure a late elevation would make far more sense than many previous decisions from the national selection panel.

He and Daryl Mitchell added 147 for the fourth wicket in a complete turnaround from the previous day. After 12 wickets fell in the first session on Monday, remarkably none perished in the two hours and 50 minutes before lunch yesterday.

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Mitchell continues to emerge as another genuine performer at first-class level. After rarely getting a place in the winning Knights side last summer, the son of former All Blacks coach John Mitchell has shown his wares this season and his 73 from 130 deliveries was mature and authoritative.

BJ Watling boosted his chances of being named as the Black Caps test wicketkeeper - although his 68 not out from 108 balls was initially far from fluent and trouble-free - while former Cantabrian Corey Anderson added an unbeaten 69 from 108 deliveries.

- Fairfax Media

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