Worcestershire v New Zealanders, Tour match, New Road, 3rd day May 16, 2015

Guptill and Wagner press Lord's claims

New Zealanders 261 for 9 dec and 89 for 2 (Guptill 61*) lead Worcestershire 291 for 7 dec (Whiteley 103*) by 59 runs
Scorecard

Ross Whiteley's hundred made New Zealand's bowlers work hard © Getty Images

As England prepared for their World Cup match against Australia, it was suggested - tongue in cheek - that the presence of Jack Shantry at their net sessions was an attempt to ready them for the pace of Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc.

Shantry, the Worcestershire seamer who spent the winter playing Grade cricket in Melbourne, does have a few similarities with Johnson and Starc. Like them, he bowls left arm. And, like them, he is a mammal.

But there the similarities cease. For while the Australian duo bowl at a furiously fast pace, Shantry bowls at a pace that might be described, in comparison, as slow to stationary. While he has recently taken to calling himself Jack 'the hurricane' Shantry, it is with self-deprecating humour: he reasons that the Beaufort scale - used as the measure of wind intensity based on sea conditions - rates that anything over 74mph can be described as hurricane force. And Shantry, on a good day, running downhill, at sea, probably does just about top 74 mph.

That is not to decry Shantry's talents. Blessed with an unusually high action, he combines impressive control with an ability to nip the ball around sharply and actually has a better first-class bowling average than either of the Australians. 189 first-class wickets at under 28 apiece deserves respect. Pace isn't everything as Terry Alderman, Vernon Philander and Chaminda Vaas proved.

What is the point of this, you may well be asking? Well, the point is that Shantry is now preparing New Zealand for their Test series against England. In early season conditions, Shantry and co. are proving the measure by which the tourists must settle on their Test XI.

With only five days to go until the Lord's Test begins, it seems New Zealand have chosen nine of the 11 that will play. With the captain Brendon McCullum - in IPL action today - likely to return at No. 5, Kane Williamson at No. 3 and Tim Southee and Trent Boult certain of sharing the new ball, the only vacancies are at the top of the order - where Tom Latham, Martin Guptill and Hamish Rutherford are battling for two spots - and as third seamer, where Doug Bracewell, Matt Henry and Neil Wagner are competing for a single position.

On the evidence of this game, it would appear that Guptill - dismissed by Shantry in the first innings - has earned himself a decent chance of playing at Lord's. While he was unable to play in the previous match at Taunton due to a side strain sustained while playing for Derbyshire (he scored a double-century in his last game for the county), he looked in imperious touch here, driving with power, pulling with contempt and dealing with Shantry's movement with confidence.

By contrast, Latham fell to a catch at leg slip - Shantry will no doubt claim, with a smile, that it was "leg theory" in action - and has now failed to reach 10 in three of his four innings on tour. While the other was a half-century against Somerset, he may have slipped behind Guptill and Rutherford, who made a patient 75 in the first innings here and 37 in the first innings at Taunton.

Rutherford was unable to put the issue beyond doubt in the second innings here, though. Playing back to Moeen Ali's first delivery, he was aghast to see the ball pitch middle and leg and turn sharply to clip the top of off stump. Had Ross Taylor been taken by Rich Oliver at leg slip when he had 12, as he probably should have been, Moeen would have finished the day with two victims.

The day still ended much better for him than it started. He was able to add only three to his overnight total when he flicked a fairly innocuous looking delivery from Wagner to midwicket.

Perhaps it was relevant that he looked somewhat unsettled by the short ball that preceded it. Australia have made no secret of their plans to test Moeen with the short delivery and, while he has rarely looked troubled by the delivery at county level and insists it is not an issue now, his ability to deal with it may well define his summer.

Wagner was probably the most impressive of the seamers contesting a Test place. While Henry, blessed with a lovely, strong action, was rated the quickest of the attack by Worcestershire's batsmen, Wagner conceded only 17 from his 14 overs and looked a man well in command of his game. Henry, by contrast, conceded almost four-an-over.

Bracewell also looked strong and took the key wicket of Daryl Mitchell - brilliantly caught by Guptill high above his head at second slip as he failed to get on top of a short ball - after grinding for 37 overs in making 22.

That New Zealand did not take a first innings lead was largely due to the resistance provided by Ross Whiteley. He has long been seen as a talented player but, due as much to a lack of confidence as any technical issues, has rarely fulfilled that ability in red-ball cricket. This, his first century for Worcestershire in first-team cricket - though it is not a first-class match - was full of powerful strokes and provided a reminder of the potential that remains. If he can take confidence from it - and he really should - he can go on to enjoy a fine career.

But in the longer term, it may be Ed Barnard's career that proves more substantial. While he has yet to make his first-class debut, the 19-year-old made an impressive first-team debut here. The 81 runs he added with Whiteley demonstrated composure and plenty of time for the ball. He looked, in short, a promising young player with the ability to forge a decent career in the game.

So what a shame that so few people will hear about it. Sadly - in a worrying reflection of cricket's decline in the UK - the local newspaper no longer sends a reporter to watch the local side and there is no agency writer at this match. Watching cricket at New Road remains a rare delight, but if the game is to remain relevant, it will have to fight harder for the exposure that is its oxygen.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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