Timing could be everything for Hamish Rutherford as he eyes two significant innings against England in the next four days, with the New Zealand test team to be named on Sunday.
Test opener Martin Guptill's strained hamstring still did not have a public prognosis last night, leaving the prospect of two opening spots becoming available in the 13-man squad for the first test against England, starting on March 6 in Dunedin.
Rutherford and fellow left-hander Tom Latham were named yesterday to open for the New Zealand XI against England in next week's four-dayer in Queenstown. Experienced pair Peter Fulton and Daniel Flynn are the other frontrunners, with coach Mike Hesson having stated ODI opener B J Watling will remain down the order in tests.
Rutherford, 23, was preparing to fly to Wellington on Monday for a Plunket Shield match, but was instead diverted to Napier as Guptill's replacement for the second ODI.
The Otago left-hander scored 18, 40 and 11 in his first three Twenty20 international innings but thought that was his lot for the summer in black.
"It has come as a surprise but it's a good surprise," he said.
"Everyone is giving me good comments about how I went about things. It's only upwards from there."
Rutherford has 609 Plunket Shield runs for Otago this season at 40.6, including one century.
That was not as much as he would like, and he was looking forward to the Queenstown game to prove he could mix it in the longer formats, too, against one of the world's best attacks.
However, one significant innings either today in Napier or on Saturday in Auckland against James Anderson and company could convince coach Mike Hesson that Rutherford has the skill and temperament for a test spot.
Few openers are demanding inclusion, with Brendon McCullum likely to shift down to No 5.
Fulton, first choice in South Africa before suffering a knee injury, seems to be favoured and is the leading Plunket Shield runscorer with 785 at 52.3. Flynn has 571 shield runs at 51.9, including two centuries since reverting to opener after a disappointing South Africa tour. However, Fulton and Flynn have not seized their test chances.
Rutherford said he could not afford to think about a test callup.
"No, I'm not. I take it day by day, game by game, ball by ball, and keep it as simple as that.
"If you start worrying about those sorts of things, you forget the main thing you need to do, which is watch the ball."
- The Dominion Post