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Fulton keen to improve 'average' test career

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 25/02/2013
Peter Fulton
Fairfax NZ
HARD EARNED: Peter Fulton has been recalled into the Black Caps test team.

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Peter Fulton believes he's a more versatile player than the last time he played for New Zealand and is desperate to improve his "pretty average" test career.

Fulton was yesterday selected in the Black Caps for the first test against England, starting March 6.

Coach Mike Hesson confirmed he would add to his 10 previous tests, as an opener.

Just who partners him has yet to be decided.

Hesson said this week's New Zealand XI game against England in Queenstown was effectively a trial for openers Hamish Rutherford and Fulton's Canterbury team-mate Tom Latham. He went on to confirm Rutherford had the inside running.

Fulton has two domestic 50-over matches to play for Canterbury before joining New Zealand in Queenstown on Sunday. He said it was hard not to think about playing his first test in more than three years.

"I'm trying not to look too far ahead but it's easier said than done," the 34-year-old said.

Fulton's had his knockers since returning to test contention, with some feeling the Canterbury skipper has had too many chances.

Fulton and domestic coach Gary Stead insist his game has improved since last playing, against Pakistan in December 2009.

"I've always looked at my international career in two parts," Fulton said. "There's the ODI stuff where I played 49 games and compiled a pretty handy record. Then there's the 10 or so tests I played. I never really got going and had a pretty average record.

"I do think my game has changed a bit though and I'm a bit more versatile now. I've scored a few runs this season, some quite quickly and some I've really had to grind out."

Fulton has matured and knows his game better than ever. He plays to his strengths far better than he used to and has learnt not to let his weaknesses cost him his wicket as often.

Fulton, who has scored more than 900 runs in nine first-class matches this season, has changed his priorities when it comes to international cricket.

"Getting selected is great but now I need to work hard, play well and score runs to keep myself in there."

Latham's call from national selection manager Kim Littlejohn came with two surprises.

Latham was first told he would be captaining the New Zealand XI against England instead of the injured Luke Ronchi.

"That was exciting enough," Latham said.

"The news I was in the test team was next. It came as a bit of a shock. I mean, I'm rapt; that's the pinnacle isn't it, test cricket. I've always wanted to play test cricket for New Zealand."

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Latham will need to outscore Rutherford in Queenstown this week to strengthen his case and was confident he could handle the switch from the middle order, where he had batted for Canterbury all season.

"I opened for New Zealand A at the start of the summer. There'll be a few tweaks to my game, just to get things a little tighter defensively, but if it's in my areas, I'm still going to try and hit it to the boundary. That's my game."

Hesson has left room for one more bowler in his squad, setting up another trial of sorts in Queenstown, between Mark Gillespie and Neil Wagner.

Martin Guptill (hamstring and thumb), Daniel Vettori (Achilles), Chris Martin (hamstring) and Mitchell McClenaghan (side strain) were unavailable through injury, while James Franklin and Jeetan Patel were dropped.

Patel was omitted in favour of his understudy from the recent South African tour, Auckland's Bruce Martin.

Martin was first called into the New Zealand squad as a teenager to cover for the injured Vettori, 13 years ago.

He was left out and the now-retired Daryl Tuffey debuted in that match.

Martin is now considered the country's top fit tweaker and he's set to finally step into international cricket as a 32-year-old.

TEST SQUAD

Brendon McCullum (c), Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Dean Brownlie, Peter Fulton, Tom Latham, Bruce Martin, Hamish Rutherford, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, B J Watling, Kane Williamson. * plus one to be added.

- The Press

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