Fulton keeps thoughts on Canterbury

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 14/02/2013

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Canterbury skipper Peter Fulton knows full well there's a gap at the top of the New Zealand test order, but he's doing his best to keep that fact out of his mind.

Black Caps coach Mike Hesson last week said captain Brendon McCullum would drop down to the middle order for the three-test series against the touring English, leaving a spot for an opener.

Fulton would have filled the role in South Africa - where McCullum was to temporarily drop down in Ross Taylor's absence - but a knee injury curtailed his chance. Taylor's back, but McCullum looks set to slip down leaving Fulton among a number of candidates fighting for the chance to open the innings with Martin Guptill. "I do hear the odd thing about what's happening," he said.

"But, honestly, I try not to concern myself with things like that."

Fulton's mentality all season has been based solely around doing his best for Canterbury and ignoring potential higher honours. "This team [Canterbury] has to be priority No 1 for me at the moment and scoring as many runs as I can for Canterbury." It's worked wonders and, ironically, as soon as he stopped worrying about making his way back to international cricket, Fulton scored so many runs he forced the selectors' hands. The 34-year-old is the Plunket Shield's leading run scorer despite missing a match. He's scored 779 runs from seven games and passed 50 nine times.

But he's not alone; openers have been filling their boots in first-class cricket this season. Fifth and sixth respectively on the Plunket Shield runs-scored list are former Canterbury players and openers Michael Papps and Aaron Redmond. Both average more than 50.

Fulton, Papps and Redmond have all played for New Zealand and all three have under-delivered at the top level.

But that was some time ago and all three are better players; more in-tune with their game and limitations.

Fulton was the last to don the whites for his country, in December 2009, while Redmond last played test cricket a year earlier and Papps a year before that. All three could be forgiven for thinking they'd been thrown on the scrap heap, but the current management group have made it clear the talent pool is too small to discard anyone. They're also competing with Northern Districts' Daniel Flynn and Redmond's Otago team-mate Hamish Rutherford, who has impressed Hesson.

So when Fulton lines up today against Central Districts in the sides' round nine Plunket Shield clash, he might not be thinking about the first test in Dunedin starting in 20 days, but Hesson and co surely will.

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Meanwhile, Canterbury have named an unchanged line-up for the match at Rangiora's Mainpower Oval. Fulton said he expects the deck to be a bit slower than normal and his side would likely play both spinners, leaving Ben McCord and Brent Findlay as the probable 12th man options.

Canterbury: Peter Fulton (c), Todd Astle, Dean Brownlie, Brent Findlay, Tim Johnston, Tom Latham, Ryan McCone, Ben McCord, Matt McEwan, Henry Nicholls, Shanan Stewart, George Worker.

Central Districts: Kieran Noema-Barnett (c), Roald Badenhorst, Doug Bracewell, Carl Cachopa, Jamie How, Andrew Lamb, Andrew Mathieson, Tarun Nethula, Ajaz Patel, Jeet Raval, Mathew Sinclair, Kruger van Wyk.

- The Press

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