New Zealand v England, 1st Test, Dunedin, 3rd day March 8, 2013

New Zealand look to a Rutherford again

Hamish Rutherford, son of Ken, has emerged as New Zealand's new big opening hope

Hamish Rutherford does not like comparisons with, or questions about, his father Ken. He wants to forge his own career and his own name. After a magnificent hundred on debut the signs are he will be able to do that, but he had better get used to hearing a few more comparisons over the next few days.

Hamish's debut could not have been a greater contrast to how Ken began his Test career. Facing West Indies, with a bowling attack including Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner and Michael Holding, a 19-year-old Ken bagged a pair; caught by Haynes off Marshall in the first innings, run out without facing in the second.

In fact, it took him seven innings before he reached double-figures with 65 against Australia in Wellington. That, though, was followed by three more ducks in the next five innings. Ken had to wait until his 14th Test for a maiden hundred, which also came against England when he made 107 at Wellington in 1988, whereas Hamish reached the milestone on just his third day as a Test cricketer.

It was not a faultless innings - dropped on 52 by Stuart Broad in his follow through and 64 by Kevin Pietersen on the first evening - but, like a rare breed of players can, he looked immediately at home in Test cricket. There was a booming drive on 94 and the ball scooted past the outside edge, but two boundaries in three deliveries off Steven Finn, a well-placed late cut then a firm cover drive which is quickly becoming a signature shot, brought up the hundred. He was just the ninth New Zealand batsman to achieve the milestone and in nice symmetry the previous man to do it, Kane Williamson, was at the other end.

Having played against Rutherford during the Twenty20s, ODIs and the New Zealand XI match in Queenstown - where he prepared himself for a Test debut with a compact 90 - England had plenty of opportunity to assess what they perceived were vulnerable areas. Like many left-handers he looked prone to giving a catch in the gully (where Pietersen put him down) and there were also questions asked of him against the short ball.

However, when England's bowlers kept the ball full outside off Rutherford kept dispatching it through the off side. When they went for a short-pitched approach Rutherford swayed expertly, did not try the hook and was content to wear the occasional blow. When Monty Panesar tossed the ball up, it was launched down the ground, including two sixes in three balls to move beyond 150. He had problems with his contact lenses during the Queenstown match, but was seeing it like a football now.

This innings was not the first time Rutherford had shone at University Oval. Last season he scored 239, a ground record, against Wellington. For a time it appeared he would beat his own mark. Yet it is quite a remarkable story for a player in his 21st first-class match and who was serving coffee in a Dunedin cafe, facing the end of his professional career, barely more than a year ago.

Now he should well get an extended run to try and fill one of the most troublesome positions in the New Zealand team. Since Mark Richardson retired in 2004 they have struggled to find one stable man never mind a partnership and plenty have been tried. Outside the two openers in this Test, there are 11 batsmen currently playing in New Zealand who have been given the chance to open.

Some, such as Martin Guptill (30 Tests), Tim McIntosh (17 Tests) and Jamie How (19 Tests) have been given a fair run without ever suggesting they really have the quality. Others have just not looked up to the task. Rutherford was not a shoo-in for this Test after Guptill picked up his injury with a domestic summer average of 40.60. Aaron Redmond, whose loss of form last year gave Rutherford his second chance at first-class level, played the last of his seven Tests in November 2008 but has enjoyed a productive first-class season with 941 runs at 55.35 and Michael Papps, who last appeared in late 2007, was also suggested as an option after 810 runs at 45.

Gut-feeling, though, is a key part of selection alongside statistics. Plus a bit of a luck. If Guptill had been fit he would likely have opened with Peter Fulton. New Zealand will have memories of being on the receiving end of a stunning debut by someone not initially in line to play: Andrew Strauss replaced the injured Michael Vaughan, at Lord's, in 2004 and struck a hundred in his first innings. Alastair Cook was also a late replacement when he scored a hundred on debut against India in 2006 and more recently Faf du Plessis registered a century after replacing the injured JP Duminy in Adelaide. Right place, right time.

Various former New Zealand players, notably Sir Richard Hadlee, have questioned the strength of the domestic game to produce Test cricketers so while Rutherford needs to ensure he builds on this fabulous start to have a sustained career it is an important success on many levels. The Rutherford name is, once again, at the heart of New Zealand cricket.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Angus on March 8, 2013, 19:23 GMT

    Unfortunately I wasn't able to watch Hamish's innings due to work (i took leave on the first day only to be deprived by the rain!), but listened to the radio and caught some highlights. By all accounts it was an amazing innings! Well done Hamish!!

    I now hope he can withstand the scrutiny that opposition attacks will direct his way, and go on from here. People more knowledgeable than me are saying he needs to inprove his legside shots but to me that's splitting hairs. I think he scored 60% of his runs on the legside!

    If Cricinfo had a "Hail" smiley, i'd be adding one...

  • Arul on March 8, 2013, 16:56 GMT

    New guys like Kane Williamson and Hamish Rutherford can help taking New Zealand back to top, along with BMcCullam and Ross Taylor.

  • Unmesh on March 8, 2013, 15:39 GMT

    He has got his nose from his father for sure. Anyone else noticed? I am really delighted that a young new zealand player is making his mark. I hope he continues in the same vein. If Hamish Rutherford keeps playing well, NZ will have a pretty good batting line-up in Test cricket with Hamish, Fulton, Guptill, Williamson, Taylor and McMillan. Go NZ!!!

  • Dummy4 on March 8, 2013, 14:10 GMT

    He is pretty young and I hope NZ does not break him by having unreasonable expectations from him based on his debut. In Pakistan, I have seen Miandad and Fawad Alam falling on their faces after their 150+ debuts. Miandad recovered after his failure but Fawad Alam is still struggling. How many Pakistanies can recognizes names like Mohammad Wasim, Ali Naqvi. Do they know Yasir Hameed has a distinct honor of two debut centuries? Umar Akmal has consistently failed in Test, and Azhar Mahmood has no place in national side. Only Younis Khan and Saleem Malik are the constants.

    The saddest case however, is that of Ashraful of Bangladesh. Please dont destroy this kid.

  • Dummy4 on March 8, 2013, 7:05 GMT

    Andrew, nice piece mate, ...

    from a black caps fan. I remember being at high school in NZ and listening to Ken Rutherfords woes in the West Indies, with an old radio transistor, at the back of class. Good points about players such as Guptill who really has not proven himself to be a high order Test batsman.

    The main claim to fame for Ken Rutherford is he scored 300 in a day in an invitation match in England. He made 317 i believe.

  • David on March 8, 2013, 6:59 GMT

    It's the nature of cricket in New Zealand that family comparisons will occur, whether you're a Bracewell or a Rutherford or even a Latham.

    Ken Rutherford was a shining light in late 20th century NZ cricket history. The son of working class immigrants from Scotland, privilege was not on his side but talent and determination was.

    Hamish Rutherford grew up the son of a much-loved father, but one who had been thrown overboard by a new disciplinarian coach - from the Rutherfords' home town of Dunedin - and who ended up having to emigrate to South Africa to continue his career.

    There are always victims when disciplinarian coaches decide to purge players, and Hamish Rutherford paid the price of growing up with his Dad half a world away.

    So in some ways there are elements of Greek Tragedy about Hamish Rutherford's life and career to date, and many of his challenges and deprivations were actually caused by New Zealand cricket.

    But he has already compiled a Test innings of 171!