Luke Ronchi's much-awaited New Zealand debut could happen as early as next month's one-day internationals in South Africa after another batting onslaught yesterday.
Amid a poor Wellington showing against Northern Districts at Karori Park, Ronchi blazed 113 off 94 balls, his second century in four innings for the Firebirds, then backed it up with 62 not out as they followed on late on day three.
The Dannevirke-born former Australian gloveman, who shifted from Perth to Wellington this year to pursue a Black Caps spot, becomes eligible on January 13.
New Zealand selection manager Kim Littlejohn expects the International Cricket Council will rubber stamp it immediately, clearing the way for 31-year-old Ronchi to be considered for the first ODI in Paarl on January 20.
"You have to wait until that period's gone and then you go to the ICC and they tick it off virtually straight away. It's our understanding that from January 13 he becomes eligible to play for New Zealand," Littlejohn said.
"Once he's available he'll come into the mix and we'll look at it when we put that side together."
The ODI squad will be announced next week as coach Mike Hesson monitors form in the first two T20 internationals.
Ronchi has been earmarked for some time, with England's tour looming in February. Rated the best gloveman in the country, it was a matter of showing form with the bat and yesterday's was his third century since he debuted in March.
NZC's director of cricket John Buchanan was at Karori Park this week to watch Ronchi, while former selection spotter Martin Crowe also gave a favourable report from the Auckland game last month.
"He's a class act in terms of his glovework and it's good to see him scoring runs," Littlejohn said.
Ronchi played seven limited overs matches for Australia, the last of those on January 13, 2009. ICC regulations stipulate a four-year stand-down for change of allegiance, and Ronchi holds a New Zealand passport.
It was a Ronchi batting masterclass yesterday. Anything wide of off stump from ND's international attack of Tim Southee, Brent Arnel and Graeme Aldridge went fizzing to the rope via exquisite cover drives and cuts.
He raised his century with an airborne ramp shot over third man before he was last out, having cracked 13 fours and six sixes.
"If it happens [South Africa], hopefully it does but there's a lot of cricket between now and then," Ronchi said.
"That's all you can do is make runs and keep well. I've dropped a few sitters in the last two games that I shouldn't be dropping so I've got to get that right. As long as I'm consistent with my keeping and making runs you've got to put pressure on whoever's in that position."
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