You always hesitate to describe an older cricketer as a spent force.
Andy McKay wasn't quite that, although as recently as a fortnight ago the 33-year-old Wellington fast bowler certainly looked a shadow of the bloke who once played 22 games for New Zealand.
His pace wasn't what you would expect and there was a ball or two most overs that had "help yourself" written all over them.
Twenty-one of those 22 matches for the Black Caps were in limited overs' cricket, yet such was McKay's four-day form that he couldn't get a game in Wellington's Twenty20 side.
Now, all of a sudden, McKay has looked the bowler of old, taking 12 wickets at 21.08 in the Firebirds' last two Plunket Shield outings.
His explanation for the change is simple.
"It's just bowling. That's the thing with me, the more bowling I do the better it gets," McKay said.
A qualified physiotherapist, McKay worked fulltime over the winter and, while he kept himself physically fit, he did little cricket-specific training. That left him feeling "underdone" when this campaign began, which was understandable given he hardly played at all last summer after suffering a season-ending injury in November.
McKay's other issue was his change in role.
Traditionally one of Wellington's new-ball bowlers, he'd been asked to come on at first-change this season and wasn't quite sure how to play it.
When he did bowl, he was searching for swing and probably a bit guilty of trying to put the ball in the right spot, rather than delivering it with decent intent.
"Absolutely. Then you get a bit along the wicket, get full, over pitch and it doesn't come out with much behind it, where as now I'm concentrating on hitting the wicket harder and if it swings, great.
"If it doesn't swing, I'm still putting the ball in good areas with something on it."
That method was critical to Wellington's eight-wicket win over Otago on Sunday. The Queen's Park pitch, in Invercargill, didn't offer the quick bowlers much and McKay said the Firebirds were guilty of trying too hard in Otago's first innings.
"It led to us leaking a few too many boundaries and we just stripped it back, started bowling a bit more channel stuff and it worked for us," he said.
The same approach will be required at Karori Park, where Wellington meet Canterbury from tomorrow. The pitch is expected to start slow and get slower and McKay said it was critical that Wellington kept things simple and stayed patient with the ball.
"I think this will be similar to Invercargill. That was one of those wickets where if you missed you got hurt. It was a real boundaries ground.
"If you got it right there was enough there to pick up a few sticks and put the batters under pressure, but your margin for error was a bit smaller."
Wellington are expected to field the same as 11 as beat Otago.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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