Martin can only see sunshine on rain-soaked day

MARK GEENTY IN DUNEDIN
Last updated 05:00 07/03/2013
Bruce Martin
Photosport
COME IN APINNER: Bruce Martin is set to make his test debut.

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Like a confident graduate chasing his first job, Bruce Martin thought he interviewed strongly on the eve of the first cricket test against England.

So the veteran left-arm spinner wasn't as surprised as most at University Oval when he got the nod for a long-awaited test debut for New Zealand at seamer Ian Butler's expense.

"I went to bed [on Tuesday] a little bit unsure and there was a lot of that talk around [that Butler would play]. But I knew I had half a chance. I bowled pretty well in the nets, I was pretty happy with the work I did there," said Martin after the first day's play was washed out at a bone-chilling University Oval.

Yesterday morning, the deal was sealed before the sides warmed up as captain Brendon McCullum approached, stuck out his hand to 32-year-old Martin and said: "Congrats. Good luck and go well."

Former New Zealand paceman-turned-commentator Simon Doull, a Northern Districts team-mate in Martin's first season of first-class cricket in 1999, handed over his first black cap as rain clouds gathered, and it was official.

"It was a pretty special moment," Martin said.

After 115 first-class matches, the closest Martin had got was 13 years earlier when named in the New Zealand 12 to face Australia before Daryl Tuffey got the nod.

The big problem was the Dunedin southerly, which blew in just before 11am and brought icy rain with it. The only on-field action was provided by Kevin Pietersen driving a Segway on the outfield without falling off.

The players shivered in their dressing rooms before the day was abandoned by umpires Asad Rauf and Paul Reiffel at 4.15pm.

Fine weather is forecast for day two, scheduled for an early start at 10am.

The selection poser was an intriguing one for the final bowling spot.

The popular theory on Tuesday night was that Butler, a callup for the injured Doug Bracewell (cut foot), was favoured due to his local knowledge, and ability to bowl into the wind and gain reverse swing on a dry, abrasive surface.

Conversely, spin doesn't usually prosper at University Oval, as Martin discovered when he took 0-49 off 22 overs for Auckland against Otago last month. A year ago here against South Africa, Daniel Vettori took 1-96 off 47 for the match.

"It tends to get quite slow and low and it's a bit of a grind on this ground. I could see their theory behind playing a fourth seamer, hoping that some might stay down and crack up a little bit," Martin said.

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"But I was always pretty confident, I think it would be pretty tough going in with four seamers especially if they bowled a big spell in one of those innings."

Despite the benign surface, Martin hoped to get the chance to attack on day four or five. He's rated the best spinner in the country by domestic batsmen and has the advantage of turning the ball away from England's predominantly right-handed lineup.

"If we can get in a good position and get to the second innings then hopefully I can come more to the fore with the attacking stuff ."

New Zealand quicks Tim Southee and Trent Boult will fancy their chances of getting among England's top order today, with the pitch having been under cover and some early dew likely to spice up the surface.

But with a day's play lost, and the pitch is expected to be hard work for the bowlers, a draw now looms if New Zealand can bat well in their first innings.

England had their own spin selection dramas, with Graeme Swann ruled out of the match and tour due to a troublesome right elbow.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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