Canterbury cricket coach Gary Stead is so sure his captain Peter Fulton will receive a test callup when the Black Caps are named tomorrow morning, he's already preparing for life without him.
Canterbury begin their one-day campaign on Tuesday in Christchurch, but Stead was sure Fulton would instead be in Dunedin preparing to play his 11th test.
"Absolutely I think he should get picked, yes I do," Stead said.
"Through sheer weight of runs I expect he'll be in."
Fulton's 19no in yesterday's nine-wicket thrashing of Auckland at Hagley Oval - along with his 98 in the first innings - took his season tally up to 902 runs from nine games at an average of 56.38.
He's scored seven 50s and three hundreds, including two on the ground where New Zealand play the first test against England, Dunedin's University Oval.
"That was a slow, low track and it was hard to score runs," Stead said. "That was a really good couple of innings and shows Pete's not just a one-trick pony."
With Martin Guptill out for the remainder of the summer, needing thumb surgery, and Brendon McCullum looking likely to move down to the middle order, there are two opening spots up for grabs.
Fulton has to get one, according to Stead.
"I can't see how you couldn't pick him; he's been brilliant this year."
Stead said Fulton had contributed on all surfaces this season and the one game he missed, through injury, was "the best deck we played on all season and he didn't get to play".
Fulton's 903 runs is the third most by a Canterbury batsman in a season, only behind two Michael Papps marks.
In 10 previous tests, Fulton has passed 50 just once and averaged 20, but Stead said his provincial skipper was a much better player now than when he last played in December 2009.
"He's 34 now; I think he knows his game extremely well and knows his limitations and his strengths."
Meanwhile, a dream week just keeps getting better for Otago left-hander Hamish Rutherford, who's likely to be summoned tomorrow for his test debut against England.
McCullum dropped a hint yesterday, confirming Guptill's injury wouldn't force a reshuffle and he and gloveman BJ Watling would both bat in the middle order. It appeared a good time to promote Watling, who played South Africa's pace the best of anyone, and summon Wellington's in-form Luke Ronchi to take the gloves, but that won't happen for the first test in Dunedin, at least.
Rutherford appears to have headed off a few contenders, including occasional test openers Daniel Flynn and Aaron Redmond.
Left-armer Bruce Martin could snare the spinner's berth, and a long-awaited test debut at 32. Martin was unlucky not to play in South Africa and is regarded by domestic batsmen as the best spinner in the country. Jeetan Patel hasn't done enough, while thoughts of handing Nathan McCullum a test debut seem to have faded.
Wellington's Mark Gillespie could sneak into the squad ahead of Neil Wagner for the final pace bowler's berth, and New Zealand could do a lot worse than consider playing four pacemen.
- The Press
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