Hamish Rutherford reckons he's blind as a bat, so losing a contact lens mid-innings wasn't the best way to go about nailing down his test selection.
But one good eye was enough for the 23-year-old Otago batsman to show his readiness to face England next week, in scoring a polished 90 against them in Queenstown yesterday.
National coach Mike Hesson always gave Rutherford the inside running to partner Peter Fulton in Wednesday's first test in Dunedin. Still, he didn't want to be outshone by New Zealand XI skipper Tom Latham who was also picked in the test 12 and seen as a potential option to open.
Latham scored 16 before being trapped lbw by spinner Graeme Swann; meanwhile Rutherford put the foot down despite his blurred vision, facing 149 balls and hitting 13 fours and a six before having his stumps disturbed by Chris Woakes. He breezed to his first half-century in 66 balls, which was severe on seamer Graham Onions (0-75).
"They tried a few things and I stood tall. There were a few short ones and they were quite hard to pick up at times," Rutherford said.
"I had a few contact [lens] issues which I need to get sorted out. I lost one in my eye. I'm blind as a bat."
Bespectacled off the field, Rutherford was spared another joust with England test quicks Steven Finn and James Anderson, the stars of the ODI series who were rested in Queenstown. He was happy with how he played England's other frontline seamer Stuart Broad (1-35), and faced Swann for the first time.
"I got in good positions, I left well early and I played my game," Rutherford said.
"It was testing early on. They put it in good areas and the ball did a little bit. It was pleasing to get through it."
He said there were mixed emotions on misjudging a Woakes delivery within sight of his fifth first-class century. But after scoring 11 and two in his ODI knocks, Rutherford would have eased a few minds in the national setup ahead of his test debut against the daunting England attack.
At stumps on day two of the four-day match, the New Zealand XI were 224-6 in reply to England's first innings of 426 which featured an ominous 158 by Ian Bell.
Another test batsman, Dean Brownlie, got a good workout in scoring 63 but missed a chance for more today when nicked out down the leg side by part-timer Jonathan Trott. Swann (2-36) removed Jimmy Neesham without scoring in the day's final over to give England the honours.
Test gloveman BJ Watling resumes today on 26. Left-armer Neil Wagner was a clear winner in the race for the 13th New Zealand test squad berth, taking 4-98 while Mark Gillespie had 1-112 including 11 no-balls.
- The Dominion Post
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