Bruce Martin eager to pressure England

COME IN APINNER: Bruce Martin is set to make his test debut.
COME IN APINNER: Bruce Martin is set to make his test debut.

Paitence has been a virtue for Bruce Martin in his cricket career - it's 13 years since he was first summoned to a New Zealand test squad.

Still without a test cap, the newly-crowned No 1 spinner is intent on not wasting his opportunity against England in Dunedin in nine days.

"I need to talk to Baz [Brendon McCullum] but I like to be attacking rather than hold up an end. I'll be looking to take poles and bowl to some pretty attacking fields," Martin said, after being named in the 12-man New Zealand squad yesterday.

The 32-year-old was 12th man for New Zealand against Australia in early 2000 when fellow left-armer Daniel Vettori was injured. That's still as close as "Bucko" got to test cricket after he was recalled to face South Africa last month, but was overlooked for Jeetan Patel in both tests.

"I worked hard in South Africa and I was disappointed I didn't get a run there. I knew I was thereabouts and I had to keep working hard. It was still a nice surprise. It's going to be good fun and I can't wait."

Martin has toiled fruitlessly on unhelpful pitches for Auckland since South Africa. He took 10 Plunket Shield wickets at 69.1 in five games, including a bowl at Dunedin's University Oval where the ball hardly topped knee height.

He's hoping for more bounce from the test strip. Last year, Vettori - still sidelined by an Achilles problem - bowled 47 overs and took 1-96 against South Africa in Dunedin. Martin was "very happy" with his bowling despite a lack of recent success.

Martin bowled to Ian Bell at under-19 level, when the England batsman was 17, and also jousted with Jonathan Trott when he played for Otago. "He used to have a few words and I'm looking forward to another battle."

Patel was dropped yesterday by coach Mike Hesson after a disappointing South African tour. Martin offered more, Hesson said, particularly turning the ball away from England's largely right-handed lineup.

The spotlight was on the opening slots. Veteran Peter Fulton and rookie Hamish Rutherford got the nod. Uncapped Tom Latham was included. Hesson said he would likely be batting cover, although he gets the chance to outshine Rutherford when they open for a New Zealand XI against England in Queenstown starting on Wednesday.

Fulton, 34, was the first choice opener in South Africa then suffered a knee injury. He played the last of his 10 tests in December 2009, but was rewarded for 902 Plunket Shield runs at 56 and some minor technical changes. Martin Guptill's thumb injury opened the way for 23-year-old Rutherford over veteran Aaron Redmond who'd put up similar numbers to Fulton.

"We could have gone for a really experienced pair," Hesson said.

"But we felt it was an opportunity with Martin's injury to expose Hamish who's averaged over 55 the last two seasons in first-class cricket and scored four hundreds. He has a temperament that suits the longer form of the game."

From the test side in South Africa, Patel, all-rounder James Franklin and batsman Daniel Flynn were omitted while Chris Martin (hamstring) is injured.

New Zealand look likely to go with seven batsmen, with Dean Brownlie at six and gloveman BJ Watling seven, then four specialist bowlers. Pushing Watling up to open was a consideration, Hesson said, but his success in the middle order was the clincher.

Hesson expected a slow pitch in his home town but said playing four pacemen was "a possibility". Mark Gillespie and Neil Wagner will go head-to-head in Queenstown for the 13th spot in the squad. Gillespie is a big chance given his wicket-taking ability and devastating spells against South Africa a year ago.


New Zealand test squad: Brendon McCullum (captain), Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Dean Brownlie, BJ Watling, Bruce Martin, Tim Southee, Doug Bracewell, Trent Boult, Tom Latham, one to be added.

The Dominion Post