Opener Jeet Raval hopes test door might open

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 23/02/2014

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Auckland opener Jeet Raval does not appear to be expecting a national call-up but last week's century has him in contention.

Incumbent New Zealand opener Peter Fulton is widely tipped to be axed when the test squad to tour the Caribbean in late May is announced. His highest score in his past eight innings was 13.

Speculation around his replacement is well under way, with Canterbury's Tom Latham, who made 29 in the second innings of his maiden test at the Basin Reserve, the early favourite.

Raval is well aware of the competition but with three centuries, including 143 against Otago in Dunedin last week, two 50s and an average a tick over 42 this summer, his name is sure to be on the radar with national selector Bruce Edgar and coach Mike Hesson.

"It has been a good run but I want to be more consistent and, as an opener, get big hundreds and set up a good foundation for the team to build on," Raval said.

"I had a tough couple of games prior to that, getting starts but not getting a big score, so it was nice to spend some time in the middle and get a good hundred.

"There are quality players pushing for the test spot - guys like Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, who opens in the first-class set-up, and Daniel Flynn is floating around."

While collectively there is little to play for in today's final round of the four-day Plunket Shield, after Canterbury secured the trophy last week, Raval and fellow opening contenders will be keen to send one final message.

"It's very disappointing not to be able to have a chance to win the competition this week but everyone has their personal goals and pride to play for."

With five years' opening experience in New Zealand, Raval is no rookie. He is most comfortable in the long form, highlighted by his highest score of 256 in 2009. Opening is one of the hardest disciplines to master.

Patience and persistence are vital ingredients to counter the new ball.

Raval has not heard from the national selectors and, if he does not get the call-up, is likely to be in the frame for the New Zealand A tour of England this winter.

In the final round of the Plunket Shield, Auckland plays Wellington at Eden Park's outer oval, Canterbury takes on Central Districts in Napier, and Otago meets Northern Districts in Dunedin.

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