Tim Southee has immediately thrown the pressure back on the Black Caps' test quicks.
The Northern Knights paceman, unwanted for the first test against Pakistan in Dunedin this week, responded to his omission magnificently at Hamilton's Seddon Park yesterday by taking 8-27 against Wellington in their Plunket Shield match.
Southee was one of a host of contenders for a place in the national side and auditioned for the New Zealand Invitation XI against the visitors in Queenstown last week but missed out to Shane Bond, Chris Martin, Iain O'Brien and Daryl Tuffey.
Yesterday he showed his hunger and ability by producing the third-best bowling figures in Northern Districts history as Wellington were dismissed for 263. At stumps, the hosts were six without loss in reply.
Southee said some hard work on his technique and his knack of swinging the ball contributed to his personal best haul.
"It swung the whole day. It felt good to get it in the right areas and ask some tough questions," the 20-year-old said.
Few Wellington batsmen found any answers. Former Knight Cameron Merchant continued his run of outstanding form for his new side with a defiant 88 while opener Luke Brodie made an aggressive 69 and Luke Woodcock added a composed 58.
However, Southee made inroads in each of his spells and was hugely impressive with the second new ball, something he wasn't in Queenstown.
"I didn't think I bowled very well down there," he admitted.
"I bowled a reasonable first spell but the second and third ones weren't that good. It's something I have to work on, the ability to come back hard.
"My rhythm today was the best I'd felt for quite a while. Last year I was getting wide on the crease later on in spells in particular but it felt easy today and it was just a matter of maintaining that rhythm and hitting the crease with a bit of force."
Southee has been in and out of the Black Caps after making a memorable test debut against England in March last year.
"While I was disappointed to miss out this year, in hindsight it was great to be able to get away and have a bit of a break and work on my training.
"There's always things you can work on and my second innings record isn't that good, so that's something I want to improve."
Southee knows with the return of Bond and Tuffey there's stiffer competition to make the Black Caps, but there's a similar glut of bowling options at the Knights now too.
"I said to the guys this morning that I thought I may struggle to make it back in," he grinned in reference to the side's two wins in the new Shield season.
"For us it allows us to rest guys who have niggles rather than bowling them through – it's great to be able to rest a guy like G (Graeme Aldridge) who took 11 wickets in his last match and Trent (Boult) who took six.
"It's the same with the New Zealand team – there's a lot of depth now with the bowlers and competition. It's a good thing, it keeps everyone on their toes – I see it as a positive."
Southee constantly beat opposing batsman outside off stump with his line and movement with the chief recipient being wicketkeeper Peter McGlashan.
After taking a world-record 12 catches in last week's match against Central Districts in Whangarei, McGlashan snared five yesterday including four off Southee's bowling.
Southee's fellow new-ball partner Brent Arnel bowled magnificently for little reward. Arnel, another member of the Invitation XI who didn't make the top side, troubled all batsmen constantly in taking 1-50 off 23 overs and can't be far from a test debut should the incumbents fail to impress in the first two tests of the three-game series.
TOP FIVE ND WICKET-TAKERS IN AN INNINGS
AR Tait 9-48 v Auckland in Hamilton 1996/97
MC Langdon 8-21 v Auckland in Auckland 1963/64
TG Southee 8-27 v Wellington in Hamilton 2009/10
GD Alabaster 8-30 v NZ under-23 XI in Hamilton 1962/63
DB Clarke v Central Districts in Wanganui 1962/63
- © Fairfax NZ News
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