March 3, 2013

No dearth of quicks for New Zealand

Behind the four frontline fast bowlers are five others pushing for spots
15

New Zealand's bowlers could not fully dismiss South Africa during their most recent Test series, yet optimism brims heading into the first Test against England in Dunedin.

In the New Zealand XI's three-wicket win over the England XI in the warm-up match in Queenstown, the hosts' second-tier pace bowlers, Mark Gillespie, Neil Wagner and Jimmy Neesham, took 15 of the 19 England wickets. Of the top six batsmen, seven of their 12 dismissals were caught behind. Suddenly there is a sense England might be more vulnerable, especially with just Ian Bell (158), Alastair Cook (60) and Matt Prior (68) getting past 70 in either innings. Obviously New Zealand's enthusiasm needs to be tempered by the direction the match might have taken had England used Jimmy Anderson and Steve Finn, but hope is justified.

A green-tinged University Oval pitch, a favourable coin toss and a slip cordon on red alert could help unleash a significant weapon for New Zealand. Spearhead Tim Southee (24), Trent Boult (23) and Doug Bracewell (22) form one of the younger international attacks, but on their day - think Hobart, December 2011 or Colombo, November 2012 - they are formidable.

Southee swinging the ball away from the right-hander, Boult bringing the ball back, and Bracewell hitting the seam on a good length can invoke batting claustrophobia. Southee and Bracewell have both had significant first-class wicket hauls in the past month. Southee reinforced that with gems to dismiss Cook and Jonathan Trott on his way to figures of 3 for 48 in the final one-dayer. Boult has not unduly troubled England in the shorter form but will have taken confidence knocking the top off the Central Districts batting order on his way to figures of 4 for 38 in a 50-over match last week.

Wagner could join the trio after his New Zealand XI match figures of 6 for 154. Further debate is required about whether it is better to form a four-pace-bowler battery or include spinner Bruce Martin for variety. New Zealand may be ranked eighth in the Test world but there is significant competition for bowling places. Behind Southee, Boult, Bracewell and Wagner lie Mitchell McClenaghan, Chris Martin, Gillespie, Ian Butler and Brent Arnel.

McClenaghan must be seriously considered if he can overcome his side strain by the third Test. His aggressive performances against South Africa and England have him tagged by many as the find of the summer.

The experience of 38-year-old Chris Martin as the country's third-highest Test wicket-taker can't be ignored, but he may bear some blame for New Zealand's inability to bowl South Africa out in Cape Town. His form, after overcoming a hamstring injury, is being monitored in the Ford Trophy one-dayers.

Queenstown's effort showed Gillespie is not quite back to his best, but the 33-year-old is clearly in the frame. His 11 for 149 against Auckland last month has been noted. Last summer he came back into the Test team as a bolter and scythed through South Africa with five and six-wicket bags in the first innings of the last two matches.

Butler showed first-class venom before getting recalled to the New Zealand T20 team. He took 10 for 111 against Northern Districts and is third on the Plunket Shield wicket-taking table with 39 at 25.12.

It is almost a year since 34-year-old Arnel played a Test, but as the top first-class wicket-taker (45 at 24.84), his form can't be ignored, even if he might lack for pace. Try telling that to Vernon Philander.

New Zealand are yet to be beaten in four Tests at the University Oval. There have been wins over Bangladesh (2008) and Pakistan (2009), and draws with West Indies (2008) and South Africa (2012, when rain halted an evenly poised last day). Historically it has favoured seam and swing. Shane Bond (in his final Test), Iain O'Brien and Chris Martin battered Pakistan on the final afternoon; South Africa were dismissed before lunch on the second day for 238.

Such snippets hint that New Zealand's strike force could succeed. Now the bowlers have to prove it.

Andrew Alderson is cricket writer at New Zealand's Herald on Sunday

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on March 5, 2013, 6:24 GMT

    Butler bowls 135-140 again so is hardly a medium pace trundler? he is every bit as good as he was when he first played except he can actually hold a bat now.

  • raveekoomar on March 5, 2013, 3:10 GMT

    Well i always felt the green tinged pitches is always what suits best for international test matches no matter what. Though sub continental pitches are of other origin, i still love watching the matches played in green tinge uncovered pitches, those days are gone anway. No wonder being an Indian i stopped watching such home bred matches. I watch anything that is played in green top pitches like the era of early 90's in Saf, NZ and Perth. Wow bring back those green tinge pitches. Do it for every abroad matches away from sub continent, we would love to see the ball dominate the bat. Come on mates where is your stuff????

  • on March 5, 2013, 2:20 GMT

    Hell yes would love to see Adam Milne in the whites, he reminds me a lot of Bondi, will be amasing if he gets half his talent to go wit hthe 150+ speeds he gets. also dont forget about hamish Bennett. that guys showed a lot of talent but last i heard he had broken down again and was fighting his way back from surgery. i think too often in NZ the Express fast bowlers are overlooked as too loose and dont get the time training and chances that the medium pace bowlers get because of our wickets. Can u imagin if Bond had never been given a go? we would have been robbed of seeing one of the best express bowlers ever.

  • gothetaniwha on March 5, 2013, 2:05 GMT

    Whats wrong with these selectors and Hesson . First they bring back Fulton who is pushing 35 , now they bring in Butler ,He has not play a test in 9 years.What about a young player Milne, Wheeler,Duffy ,Henry or even Gillespie at least he gives his all . Butler is a slow medium Trundler ,The English batters must be laughing . Even 60 year old Sir Richard would bowl faster than Butler .

  • Robster1 on March 5, 2013, 0:32 GMT

    Everyday I'd take Chris Martin over Ian Butler - and Marto would do the business in spring in England.

  • on March 4, 2013, 19:15 GMT

    Somehow, I think it's not so much a question of Southee, Boult, Bracewell and Wagner versus Cook, Compton, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Root and Prior as one of how Latham, Rutherford, Williamson, Taylor, Brownlie, McCullum and Watling fare against Anderson, Finn and Swann. If the latter are on form, the surprising amount of pace bowling talent at New Zealand's disposal will matter little, I'm afraid. As with Australia, it's the dearth of test class batsmen (Clarke and Taylor respectivly aside) that is New Zealand's main weakness. Interestingly, this chirpy little article manages to shift the focus away from the main issue...

  • on March 4, 2013, 16:48 GMT

    What happened to Andy Mackay...he seemed a serious contender few seasons ago....and was quick.....

  • bumsonseats on March 4, 2013, 14:21 GMT

    i cannot see the nz board have a belter of a pitch but would expect a good covering of live grass and hope to win the toss and bat,and who could blame them.

  • blink182alex on March 4, 2013, 12:19 GMT

    Brent Arnel? seriously the guy is no where near test standard, wouldn't even get into any state teams in Australia. Chris Martin has lost the bit of nip to his bowling, Mark Gillespie is a decent bowler though, always seems to take wickets but can't stay on the park enough, bit similar to Ryan Harris except 5kph slower.

  • jplterrors on March 4, 2013, 12:00 GMT

    Agreed!!! NZ has the best young quicks in the game I look forward to watching this era of dominance unfold!

  • on March 5, 2013, 6:24 GMT

    Butler bowls 135-140 again so is hardly a medium pace trundler? he is every bit as good as he was when he first played except he can actually hold a bat now.

  • raveekoomar on March 5, 2013, 3:10 GMT

    Well i always felt the green tinged pitches is always what suits best for international test matches no matter what. Though sub continental pitches are of other origin, i still love watching the matches played in green tinge uncovered pitches, those days are gone anway. No wonder being an Indian i stopped watching such home bred matches. I watch anything that is played in green top pitches like the era of early 90's in Saf, NZ and Perth. Wow bring back those green tinge pitches. Do it for every abroad matches away from sub continent, we would love to see the ball dominate the bat. Come on mates where is your stuff????

  • on March 5, 2013, 2:20 GMT

    Hell yes would love to see Adam Milne in the whites, he reminds me a lot of Bondi, will be amasing if he gets half his talent to go wit hthe 150+ speeds he gets. also dont forget about hamish Bennett. that guys showed a lot of talent but last i heard he had broken down again and was fighting his way back from surgery. i think too often in NZ the Express fast bowlers are overlooked as too loose and dont get the time training and chances that the medium pace bowlers get because of our wickets. Can u imagin if Bond had never been given a go? we would have been robbed of seeing one of the best express bowlers ever.

  • gothetaniwha on March 5, 2013, 2:05 GMT

    Whats wrong with these selectors and Hesson . First they bring back Fulton who is pushing 35 , now they bring in Butler ,He has not play a test in 9 years.What about a young player Milne, Wheeler,Duffy ,Henry or even Gillespie at least he gives his all . Butler is a slow medium Trundler ,The English batters must be laughing . Even 60 year old Sir Richard would bowl faster than Butler .

  • Robster1 on March 5, 2013, 0:32 GMT

    Everyday I'd take Chris Martin over Ian Butler - and Marto would do the business in spring in England.

  • on March 4, 2013, 19:15 GMT

    Somehow, I think it's not so much a question of Southee, Boult, Bracewell and Wagner versus Cook, Compton, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Root and Prior as one of how Latham, Rutherford, Williamson, Taylor, Brownlie, McCullum and Watling fare against Anderson, Finn and Swann. If the latter are on form, the surprising amount of pace bowling talent at New Zealand's disposal will matter little, I'm afraid. As with Australia, it's the dearth of test class batsmen (Clarke and Taylor respectivly aside) that is New Zealand's main weakness. Interestingly, this chirpy little article manages to shift the focus away from the main issue...

  • on March 4, 2013, 16:48 GMT

    What happened to Andy Mackay...he seemed a serious contender few seasons ago....and was quick.....

  • bumsonseats on March 4, 2013, 14:21 GMT

    i cannot see the nz board have a belter of a pitch but would expect a good covering of live grass and hope to win the toss and bat,and who could blame them.

  • blink182alex on March 4, 2013, 12:19 GMT

    Brent Arnel? seriously the guy is no where near test standard, wouldn't even get into any state teams in Australia. Chris Martin has lost the bit of nip to his bowling, Mark Gillespie is a decent bowler though, always seems to take wickets but can't stay on the park enough, bit similar to Ryan Harris except 5kph slower.

  • jplterrors on March 4, 2013, 12:00 GMT

    Agreed!!! NZ has the best young quicks in the game I look forward to watching this era of dominance unfold!

  • StevieS on March 4, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    Jim Jane Morrison where did he say he is as good as Philander? He just said that pace isn't everything.

  • on March 4, 2013, 7:27 GMT

    Come on, Andrew. Please don't suggest Brent Arnel as a serious contender again. And even mentioning him in the same paragraph as Vernon Philander is ridiculous, unless you include something like "is not fit to tie the shoelaces of ..." between the two names. Arnel has been cannon fodder in his previous test opportunities.

    Martin could still fill in if needed, but would not be a positive step at this point. Surely some of the younger chaps would have been worth more of a mention - e.g., Wheeler, Milne, Small, McCone, Henry, Anderson, etc. I'm not saying any of them are ready for test level, but surely they are a better bet than Arnel!

  • Glenn10 on March 4, 2013, 7:17 GMT

    I agree with Morgsy, the sooner Milne is put in the test team the better. I agree he can go for a few, but he's our only candidate who can shake up batsmen with geniune pace. He's the fastest in NZ by a mile and has a fantastic 1st class record. They keep bumbling around with him at ODI and T20 level and that's not his bag. Its rare to find a guy who can bowl 145k plus so unleash him while he's young and (mostly) fit. Brent Arnel - Give me a break! Agree with Morgsy again - a provincial trundler at best. Martin's past his best, Gillespe's a trier but getting a bit old and the same with Butler who will fill in well when needed. Lets invest in our youth. McClengahan to lead the ODI and T20 attack and Milne and Matt Henry to be introduced at Test level when the opportunity arises. Maybe Morgsy and I should be writing for the Herald?... or better still - be made selectors!

  • Morgsy on March 4, 2013, 5:28 GMT

    Don't know about Arnel - he's little more than a provincial trundler and would never inspire fear in international line ups. I would like to see Adam Milne given a go. I've said it before, with Bracewell, Southee and Boult all proven performers, there's room to take a punt and unleash this kid. Even if he's erratic it would be good to have a 150km mongrel in the pack!

  • plow on March 4, 2013, 2:42 GMT

    Nostro we heard it along time ago before you knew anything about these guys... we didnt hear it from you first at all. Mitchell McLenagen can hardly be described as a buffet bowler. Its hows what you know, so say it again, say it before whatever your bowling miles off the pace (intended)

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  • plow on March 4, 2013, 2:42 GMT

    Nostro we heard it along time ago before you knew anything about these guys... we didnt hear it from you first at all. Mitchell McLenagen can hardly be described as a buffet bowler. Its hows what you know, so say it again, say it before whatever your bowling miles off the pace (intended)

  • Morgsy on March 4, 2013, 5:28 GMT

    Don't know about Arnel - he's little more than a provincial trundler and would never inspire fear in international line ups. I would like to see Adam Milne given a go. I've said it before, with Bracewell, Southee and Boult all proven performers, there's room to take a punt and unleash this kid. Even if he's erratic it would be good to have a 150km mongrel in the pack!

  • Glenn10 on March 4, 2013, 7:17 GMT

    I agree with Morgsy, the sooner Milne is put in the test team the better. I agree he can go for a few, but he's our only candidate who can shake up batsmen with geniune pace. He's the fastest in NZ by a mile and has a fantastic 1st class record. They keep bumbling around with him at ODI and T20 level and that's not his bag. Its rare to find a guy who can bowl 145k plus so unleash him while he's young and (mostly) fit. Brent Arnel - Give me a break! Agree with Morgsy again - a provincial trundler at best. Martin's past his best, Gillespe's a trier but getting a bit old and the same with Butler who will fill in well when needed. Lets invest in our youth. McClengahan to lead the ODI and T20 attack and Milne and Matt Henry to be introduced at Test level when the opportunity arises. Maybe Morgsy and I should be writing for the Herald?... or better still - be made selectors!

  • on March 4, 2013, 7:27 GMT

    Come on, Andrew. Please don't suggest Brent Arnel as a serious contender again. And even mentioning him in the same paragraph as Vernon Philander is ridiculous, unless you include something like "is not fit to tie the shoelaces of ..." between the two names. Arnel has been cannon fodder in his previous test opportunities.

    Martin could still fill in if needed, but would not be a positive step at this point. Surely some of the younger chaps would have been worth more of a mention - e.g., Wheeler, Milne, Small, McCone, Henry, Anderson, etc. I'm not saying any of them are ready for test level, but surely they are a better bet than Arnel!

  • StevieS on March 4, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    Jim Jane Morrison where did he say he is as good as Philander? He just said that pace isn't everything.

  • jplterrors on March 4, 2013, 12:00 GMT

    Agreed!!! NZ has the best young quicks in the game I look forward to watching this era of dominance unfold!

  • blink182alex on March 4, 2013, 12:19 GMT

    Brent Arnel? seriously the guy is no where near test standard, wouldn't even get into any state teams in Australia. Chris Martin has lost the bit of nip to his bowling, Mark Gillespie is a decent bowler though, always seems to take wickets but can't stay on the park enough, bit similar to Ryan Harris except 5kph slower.

  • bumsonseats on March 4, 2013, 14:21 GMT

    i cannot see the nz board have a belter of a pitch but would expect a good covering of live grass and hope to win the toss and bat,and who could blame them.

  • on March 4, 2013, 16:48 GMT

    What happened to Andy Mackay...he seemed a serious contender few seasons ago....and was quick.....

  • on March 4, 2013, 19:15 GMT

    Somehow, I think it's not so much a question of Southee, Boult, Bracewell and Wagner versus Cook, Compton, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Root and Prior as one of how Latham, Rutherford, Williamson, Taylor, Brownlie, McCullum and Watling fare against Anderson, Finn and Swann. If the latter are on form, the surprising amount of pace bowling talent at New Zealand's disposal will matter little, I'm afraid. As with Australia, it's the dearth of test class batsmen (Clarke and Taylor respectivly aside) that is New Zealand's main weakness. Interestingly, this chirpy little article manages to shift the focus away from the main issue...