South Africa in New Zealand 2011-12 March 12, 2012

McCullum and Martin must take the lead

Five ways New Zealand can better their chances in the series against South Africa, as they prepare for the second Test, in Hamilton
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Open with Brendon McCullum
McCullum has advocated opening for years but - after a tantalisingly successful spell - now shifts to No. 3 to make way for Rob Nicol, just as he did in the limited-overs matches. Surely McCullum needs to be at his bristling, aggressive best facing the first ball. Psychologically it could give New Zealand an edge with his ethos for fearless leadership from the front. He has averaged 43.87 in 16 Test innings as an opener since taking the job fulltime in November 2010.

Nicol's opening success in the limited-overs matches in Zimbabwe has clouded the evidence. Yes, he opens for Canterbury, and has scores of 107, 3, 3, and 1 this season in four-day games. But why not slot him into the No. 5 position as a clean swap until Dean Brownlie returns?

McCullum and Martin Guptill have fashioned one of New Zealand's most successful opening combinations. In nine innings, against Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Australia, they average 43.55 runs per innings including two century stands. Compare them to John Wright and Bruce Edgar, who for years have been the New Zealand benchmark in the opening roles. They averaged 31.82 runs in 56 innings opening together, from 1978-86.

Hand Tarun Nethula a debut
Perhaps someone in New Zealand Cricket circles might suggest to Seddon Park groundsman Karl Johnson that a pitch which dries, roughs up and cracks on the fourth and fifth days is a thought for the second Test.

Nethula showed promise against South Africa in the one-dayer at Napier, and would have got more wickets than his 2 for 60 from 10 overs had it not been for some sloppy fielding off his bowling.

He has matured this season and in six first-class matches has tightened up his overs. The evidence is 20 wickets at 30.20 with an economy-rate of 3.41, including his 9 for 50 effort in the match against Otago. Yes, he and Vettori both take the ball away from the right-hander but Nethula at least offers a point-of-difference to the cannon fodder Tim Southee served up last week. Bringing in another pace bowler in the 130-140kph bracket might seem a trifle conservative when New Zealand came nowhere near taking 20 wickets in Dunedin.

If Nethula plays he will be New Zealand's first specialist legspinner since Brooke Walker in May 2002. However, in recent Tests and the two first-class matches this season Seddon Park has been more conducive to seam. Making a sudden change to the default conditions may be a tricky task.

Apply batting grit
Rain ruined what would have been a fascinating final day of the first Test, in Dunedin. New Zealand needed 264 runs off 98 overs with Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum ensconced on a flat pitch against, arguably, the best bowling attack in the world. In reality the hosts' chances were slim, given that a 400-plus fourth-innings target has been chased down only four times in 2035 tests.

The origins of that situation are clear. The New Zealand batsmen did not make the most of the first innings and gave their bowlers too few runs to bowl at. After dismissing South Africa for 238 they only mustered 273 in reply, and 33 of those came from Trent Boult's wild swipes at No 10. Four other batsmen scored in the 30-48 bracket but failed to go on. The highest partnership of 65, for the third wicket between Taylor and McCullum, was perhaps the most disappointing. They had shown hints of how to get the better of their much-vaunted opposition by defending stoutly behind the ball but did not carry on.

Knead and stretch BJ Watling
Kruger van Wyk had a sound wicketkeeping debut. He made 36 runs, did not drop (or take) any catches, helped effect the run-out of Mark Boucher, gave away just two byes over two innings and undoubtedly contributed valuable intelligence on cricketers he played with at school and provincial level in South Africa.

However, Watling needs to be rushed back from his hip irritation after an excellent debut with the gloves against Zimbabwe in Napier. It was a bold punt from coach John Wright to select him as a wicketkeeper but with a maiden Test century, four catches in the second innings and the concession of just four byes (from a loose Trent Boult delivery) he deserves to return as soon as possible.

Watling proved capable keeping up to Daniel Vettori's spin or back to the pace quartet. He used his feet well with the bat, was at ease clipping balls off his legs and patient leaving deliveries outside off stump. He has not lost that form, and has scored three half-centuries and taken eight catches in four innings for Northern Districts in the Plunket Shield since the Napier Test.

Demand more Chris Martin magic
Provided he stays fit and gets suitable support from his bowling comrades, the 37-year-old Martin is the New Zealand player who can make the biggest difference in this series.

South Africa batsmen are his bunnies. Not many bowlers can claim that. He showed his skills again in the first innings in Dunedin with four wickets for 56 in 18 overs including those of Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers. Of all Martin's wickets in Test cricket he has dismissed Smith (7) and Kallis (6) the most.

Martin has taken 48 of his 222 Test wickets (21.62%) and four of his 10 five-wicket bags against South Africa, despite playing just 11 of his 66 tests (16.67%) against them. His best bowling figures in a match, 11 for 180, came in New Zealand's first win in a home Test against South Africa, at Eden Park in 2004. He averages 25.25 with the ball against South Africa compared to 33.32 overall.

Edited by Dustin Silgardo

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • StoneRose on March 14, 2012, 16:53 GMT

    replacing Southee with a batsman should be the first and easiest improvement

  • beejaytee on March 14, 2012, 7:03 GMT

    @stickywicketnick - Yep, it'd be good if NZ could shoehorn another southpaw into the line-up (my preference would be Flynn), but I think you're a bit harsh on Guppy. Having a tall front-foot player in with Baz or Kane can interupt a bowler's lengths, and we all know that Guptill has the ability to hit boundaries. I've thought for a while that he just needs to rotate strike more regularly. I think both he & Nicol should set their sights on hanging in past the 20 over mark & just getting to the non-striker's end by any means they can. I think the key to beating SA is frustrating & tiring their bowlers, especially Morkell & Philander, who both seem to leak runs towards the end of each spell.

  • beejaytee on March 14, 2012, 6:51 GMT

    @sombrehombre - You're right. Unless Nicol makes a hundred, or gets a bowl as the second spinner and does better than anyone would expect, he'll have to make way for Brownlie. Which means Baz at the top of the order again. I don't think that's terrible, but it's not ideal. The only other option I see is to drop Kane, which seems unlikely and also very harsh on the youngster.

  • marts30 on March 14, 2012, 1:28 GMT

    stickywicketnick: Come on, Kane deserves a little longer in the test side yet. He got run out for 5 vs Zimbabwe and got some decent starts in Aussie, where everyone except Dean and Dan struggled. Last 2 tests he has had 1 innings each... Look at Virat Kohli, supremely talented and averages similar after 8 tests, Jacques Kallis averaged 25 after his first THREE years ffs. Give him more time, there is just no use sending him back to domestic cricket.

  • WDSut on March 14, 2012, 0:35 GMT

    Comparing the Guptill-McCullum opening partnership favourably with that of John Wright and Bruce Edgar is absurd. How statistics lie. (1) The standard of test bowling was way higher in Wright and Edgar's day (2) Wright and Edgar looked to bat responsibly and for the team in taking the shine off the ball. So number of runs on the board wasn't the first consideration. Please everyone get real on McCullum. He is a fine player, but he is not a promising young gun who can only get better. He's been playing international cricket for ages, and we're likely to keep seeing the same misjudgments that see his record as it is. There is no corner to turn... Guptill should never have been picked to play test cricket anyway. His first-class record is very average.

  • Sombrehombre on March 13, 2012, 20:39 GMT

    Agree with beejaytee, I feel like McCullum has been doing a better job at three than opening. He is vulnerable to getting out exceedingly quickly and seeing one of NZs key players depart so early puts an astronomical dent in the teams confidence (and that horrible feeling as a fan...). Problem is, I cant see Nicol nailing down a place but the balance of the team looks better with Taylor batting at 4 and Williamson 5. Brownlie is not an opener and deserves to get shipped straight back in when he returns - so what to do, who to open?

  • on March 13, 2012, 20:22 GMT

    Sourav Mishra, wow.... really interesting comments mate. At least NZ players have guts and pride. I'd worry about your own team and how they perform before coming on to a NZ article and criticising ours.

  • on March 13, 2012, 18:37 GMT

    Newzealenders have rarely produced batsmen with consistent success at the Test level- Run a hot spot and u wil see that even the top order never middles the ball! Often they poke at the ball too much,get edgy and fall to spin easily.Cricketers known to be aggresive at first class level dont even have relatively high strike rates in international levels- often they get dismissed before scoring the big ones.

  • Tartanspringbok on March 13, 2012, 13:30 GMT

    Five ways New Zealand can better their chances in the series against South Africa, as they prepare for the second Test, in Hamilton

    1: Call up Morne van Wyk http://www.espncricinfo.com/south-africa-domestic-2011/content/player/47711.html

    2: Call up Richard Levi http://www.espncricinfo.com/south-africa-domestic-2011/content/player/46148.html

    3: Call up Dane Vilas http://www.espncricinfo.com/south-africa-domestic-2011/content/player/262456.html

    4: Call up Jandre Coetzee http://www.espncricinfo.com/south-africa-domestic-2011/content/player/44667.html

    5: Call up Ahmed Amla (Hashim's Brother) http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/43930.html

  • teo. on March 13, 2012, 12:49 GMT

    see a few comments by "hamish"... what ever happened to the 2 Marshall brothers?? Hamish and the other?

  • StoneRose on March 14, 2012, 16:53 GMT

    replacing Southee with a batsman should be the first and easiest improvement

  • beejaytee on March 14, 2012, 7:03 GMT

    @stickywicketnick - Yep, it'd be good if NZ could shoehorn another southpaw into the line-up (my preference would be Flynn), but I think you're a bit harsh on Guppy. Having a tall front-foot player in with Baz or Kane can interupt a bowler's lengths, and we all know that Guptill has the ability to hit boundaries. I've thought for a while that he just needs to rotate strike more regularly. I think both he & Nicol should set their sights on hanging in past the 20 over mark & just getting to the non-striker's end by any means they can. I think the key to beating SA is frustrating & tiring their bowlers, especially Morkell & Philander, who both seem to leak runs towards the end of each spell.

  • beejaytee on March 14, 2012, 6:51 GMT

    @sombrehombre - You're right. Unless Nicol makes a hundred, or gets a bowl as the second spinner and does better than anyone would expect, he'll have to make way for Brownlie. Which means Baz at the top of the order again. I don't think that's terrible, but it's not ideal. The only other option I see is to drop Kane, which seems unlikely and also very harsh on the youngster.

  • marts30 on March 14, 2012, 1:28 GMT

    stickywicketnick: Come on, Kane deserves a little longer in the test side yet. He got run out for 5 vs Zimbabwe and got some decent starts in Aussie, where everyone except Dean and Dan struggled. Last 2 tests he has had 1 innings each... Look at Virat Kohli, supremely talented and averages similar after 8 tests, Jacques Kallis averaged 25 after his first THREE years ffs. Give him more time, there is just no use sending him back to domestic cricket.

  • WDSut on March 14, 2012, 0:35 GMT

    Comparing the Guptill-McCullum opening partnership favourably with that of John Wright and Bruce Edgar is absurd. How statistics lie. (1) The standard of test bowling was way higher in Wright and Edgar's day (2) Wright and Edgar looked to bat responsibly and for the team in taking the shine off the ball. So number of runs on the board wasn't the first consideration. Please everyone get real on McCullum. He is a fine player, but he is not a promising young gun who can only get better. He's been playing international cricket for ages, and we're likely to keep seeing the same misjudgments that see his record as it is. There is no corner to turn... Guptill should never have been picked to play test cricket anyway. His first-class record is very average.

  • Sombrehombre on March 13, 2012, 20:39 GMT

    Agree with beejaytee, I feel like McCullum has been doing a better job at three than opening. He is vulnerable to getting out exceedingly quickly and seeing one of NZs key players depart so early puts an astronomical dent in the teams confidence (and that horrible feeling as a fan...). Problem is, I cant see Nicol nailing down a place but the balance of the team looks better with Taylor batting at 4 and Williamson 5. Brownlie is not an opener and deserves to get shipped straight back in when he returns - so what to do, who to open?

  • on March 13, 2012, 20:22 GMT

    Sourav Mishra, wow.... really interesting comments mate. At least NZ players have guts and pride. I'd worry about your own team and how they perform before coming on to a NZ article and criticising ours.

  • on March 13, 2012, 18:37 GMT

    Newzealenders have rarely produced batsmen with consistent success at the Test level- Run a hot spot and u wil see that even the top order never middles the ball! Often they poke at the ball too much,get edgy and fall to spin easily.Cricketers known to be aggresive at first class level dont even have relatively high strike rates in international levels- often they get dismissed before scoring the big ones.

  • Tartanspringbok on March 13, 2012, 13:30 GMT

    Five ways New Zealand can better their chances in the series against South Africa, as they prepare for the second Test, in Hamilton

    1: Call up Morne van Wyk http://www.espncricinfo.com/south-africa-domestic-2011/content/player/47711.html

    2: Call up Richard Levi http://www.espncricinfo.com/south-africa-domestic-2011/content/player/46148.html

    3: Call up Dane Vilas http://www.espncricinfo.com/south-africa-domestic-2011/content/player/262456.html

    4: Call up Jandre Coetzee http://www.espncricinfo.com/south-africa-domestic-2011/content/player/44667.html

    5: Call up Ahmed Amla (Hashim's Brother) http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/43930.html

  • teo. on March 13, 2012, 12:49 GMT

    see a few comments by "hamish"... what ever happened to the 2 Marshall brothers?? Hamish and the other?

  • stickywicketnick on March 13, 2012, 11:39 GMT

    Let's face it; with Vetori being our only left-hand batter we are leaving or top 5 open to being dismantled by any pace bowling attack. Anyone who has played cricket knows how much easier it is bowling to two right handers than having to all of a sudden change your line for the other batsmen.

    Left hand openers such as Josh Brodie who is averaging 41 for the season and Jeet Raval averaging 40 need to be looked at as propects for the Windies tour coming up.

    Williamson has to start scoring some runs, especially when he has been put down the order. His average of 29 after 10 tests doesn't make for pretty reading when he was meant to be New Zealand's next Martin Crowe.

    With young stars Latham, Rutherford and dare I say it; Daniel Flynn making good claims for selection we can't continue to keep Willamson in the side on a promise that he 'will' be good.

  • klempie on March 13, 2012, 9:41 GMT

    So the only thing keeping the Blackcaps from including two Saffers in their side, is that both of them keep? What happened to Elliott?

  • zenboomerang on March 13, 2012, 9:37 GMT

    @NostroGustro... Agree on your analysis on the trend in openers... Very glad that Oz has selected Cowan as a steady & reliable looking opener... I don't want to sound down putting, but NZ could really use a couple of imports in the team - especially in the allrounder category... Personally, it wouldn't bother me if a few subcontinent spin bowlers moved to Oz looking for opportunities... It can only add depth to both our teams... PS: why doesn't CNZ improve a ground in Auckland for Tests?... Seems with such a big population Test cricket would be the winner in the long run...

  • zenboomerang on March 13, 2012, 9:34 GMT

    @Mad_Hamish... Agree on Ryder - I often imagine what he would be like if he trained like Ponting or Hussing... A wasted opportunity, me thinks...

  • zn264 on March 13, 2012, 9:27 GMT

    I think Nicol deserves another chance, and I really hope he manages to get a few runs. I really don't know where Baz should bat, but he seems to be enjoying the challenge at 1st drop. He doesn't handle a swinging new ball too well, so perhaps he has found his calling at 3. Kane needs to step up to the mark too, and lets get Ryder back in the side. Putting all of that to one side though, who are we going to replace Southee with? I was quite keen on the old Welly pace man to step in as he is in good form, and by the look of that pitch, probably not a bad bet. New Zealand should be able to set up another 5th day win here, let hope the rain doesn't stop them like the last match : )

  • Mad_Hamish on March 13, 2012, 5:50 GMT

    Ryder's recent form could be why he's been dropped New Zealand in Sri Lanka Test Series, 2009 2 4 0 127 42 31.75 289 43.94 0 0 0 11 1 New Zealand in India Test Series, 2010/11 3 5 0 274 103 54.80 522 52.49 1 2 0 29 1 Pakistan in New Zealand Test Series, 2010/11 2 4 0 39 22 9.75 68 57.35 0 0 2 5 2

    Trans-Tasman Trophy (New Zealand in Australia), 2011/12 2 4 0 58 36 14.50 91 63.73 0 0 1 9 0

    combine those figures with a complete lack of effort to stay fit enough to play (have a look at how many injuries he's had) and Ryder hasn't demonstrated any ability to contribute. Has the ability, hasn't demonstrated the effort to get the results needed.

  • beejaytee on March 13, 2012, 5:35 GMT

    To all the Rob Nicol bashers - He may not have got many runs, but he faced over 70 balls in the 2nd innings, got hit a number of times, frustrated the hell out of SA's bowlers, and did as much to save the match as anyone. Are you all forgetting that horrible feeling you get as an NZ fan when you read "B. McCullum - 4(3) FOW 1/4 (0.3)"?

  • NostroGustro on March 13, 2012, 2:45 GMT

    Disagree with the first point - McCullum should never be opening for NZ. He has no technique against the moving ball, he's more likely to play at the ball rather than leave it, nicking out, NZ one down for stuff all hence his batting average opening against quality test playing nations. Problem is: NZ has no test quality openers, even Guptill, great form that he has, isn't 100% sure where his off pole is...

    Unfortunately the world-wide trend seems to be towards the "smashed 'em bro" type openers, trying to wrest the advantage from the get go, rather than the "bore the shine off the ball" types. I know which style i'd want in my winning test team and it aint the former.

  • youfoundme on March 13, 2012, 0:29 GMT

    First of all, I agree with McCullum returning to the top. But I'd like to go a bit further and say that Nicol's "great" form in the limited overs games this summer was not enough to demand a spot in the top order of our Test squad. Jesse Ryder should never have been dropped, we should be playing our best, regardless of off-field incidents that are pretty minor if you ask me...

  • Dankokoro on March 13, 2012, 0:27 GMT

    @ Plow - also totally agree. His Bowling aside, his attitude with the bat is totally unacceptable imo. No matter what the situation is, he's trying to hit it out of the park from ball 1. Even if what we need for him is to just stay in for a while and try to make a score. It just leads me to wonder, why noone's telling him to stop doing it. It's school boy stuff and extremely frustrating to see as a fan.

  • Mad_Hamish on March 13, 2012, 0:20 GMT

    When the vast majority of McCallum's average as opener comes from a 200 against India in Hyderabad where Khan broke down in his 8th over it's not exactly a sign that he's likely to succeed opening against Steyn and Philander on pitches that do move around. Hell, he averages 36 vs Zimbabwe as an opener, 15 vs Australia

  • on March 13, 2012, 0:18 GMT

    its actually less than .5% of Indias Patchmaster, but yeah. 5% would be 40mil or two australias lol.

  • teo. on March 12, 2012, 22:20 GMT

    haha.. how about finding about 7 NEW better players!! Keep guptil, mccullum, taylor, vettori and martin... as for the rest, hope they atleast field well. On a serious note, what NZ can do is restrain their attacking nature, and be a bit more consistent and patient in their plans.

  • Patchmaster on March 12, 2012, 21:53 GMT

    @ plow - totally agree with your Southee comments, his shot in the last test to get out, is alone enough to drop him. He's also started to sledge way too much, he gets whacked around the park and then just stands there and abuses the batsman, as an NZ supporter it's kinda embarressing to watch really. He needs to watch how Chris Martin and Bracewell go about their business a bit more.

  • on March 12, 2012, 21:44 GMT

    "a pair of losers", Sourav Mishra? reminds me of a team who toured Australia recently...

  • Patchmaster on March 12, 2012, 20:51 GMT

    @ Sourav Mishra, personal attacks on players isn't cool. We are a country of 4 million. Not like India. We do pretty damn well considering, and India do pretty badly considering. Nicol is just learning his trade, he's brave and he'll do well. Guptil destroyed SA in the T20 and he is a great talent. Concentrate on supporting your own poorly performing team, rather than being rude about ours. We are proud to be a test playing nation with a population of less 5% of India.

  • on March 12, 2012, 20:19 GMT

    finally a great article.. Absolutely perfect! McCullum at top.. Thats the only change needed.. Let all Nicols be expelled, please.. And dear Mr. Wright, the best batsman of ur side shud open..not hide behind a pair of losers.. U urself did it in ur career, so why are u ruining Brendon's career?

  • Nadeem1976 on March 12, 2012, 20:06 GMT

    Lucky NZ , i mean rain took away the easy victory from SA with 98 overs on 5th day. Luck will not favor all the time NZ, you got to put opponent under pressure otherwise will lose next match for sure.

  • plow on March 12, 2012, 19:21 GMT

    Agree with all of that.

    Would like to know what the heck has happened to Tim Southee? Since his brilliant opening spell against England all those years ago, he has surely and steadily bowled worse and worse. He doesn't bowl yorkers any more in limited overs and doesn't swing it any more in tests. He treats batting like its a joke, he should apply himself with the bat, play some normal cricket shots, not just head in the air wild swing across the line. He is really talented, but right now dropping him was a no brainer, he was just taking pressure off the opposition with the ball and giving his wicket away with the bat. Get that action sorted Tim, or you could be back milking cows....

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  • plow on March 12, 2012, 19:21 GMT

    Agree with all of that.

    Would like to know what the heck has happened to Tim Southee? Since his brilliant opening spell against England all those years ago, he has surely and steadily bowled worse and worse. He doesn't bowl yorkers any more in limited overs and doesn't swing it any more in tests. He treats batting like its a joke, he should apply himself with the bat, play some normal cricket shots, not just head in the air wild swing across the line. He is really talented, but right now dropping him was a no brainer, he was just taking pressure off the opposition with the ball and giving his wicket away with the bat. Get that action sorted Tim, or you could be back milking cows....

  • Nadeem1976 on March 12, 2012, 20:06 GMT

    Lucky NZ , i mean rain took away the easy victory from SA with 98 overs on 5th day. Luck will not favor all the time NZ, you got to put opponent under pressure otherwise will lose next match for sure.

  • on March 12, 2012, 20:19 GMT

    finally a great article.. Absolutely perfect! McCullum at top.. Thats the only change needed.. Let all Nicols be expelled, please.. And dear Mr. Wright, the best batsman of ur side shud open..not hide behind a pair of losers.. U urself did it in ur career, so why are u ruining Brendon's career?

  • Patchmaster on March 12, 2012, 20:51 GMT

    @ Sourav Mishra, personal attacks on players isn't cool. We are a country of 4 million. Not like India. We do pretty damn well considering, and India do pretty badly considering. Nicol is just learning his trade, he's brave and he'll do well. Guptil destroyed SA in the T20 and he is a great talent. Concentrate on supporting your own poorly performing team, rather than being rude about ours. We are proud to be a test playing nation with a population of less 5% of India.

  • on March 12, 2012, 21:44 GMT

    "a pair of losers", Sourav Mishra? reminds me of a team who toured Australia recently...

  • Patchmaster on March 12, 2012, 21:53 GMT

    @ plow - totally agree with your Southee comments, his shot in the last test to get out, is alone enough to drop him. He's also started to sledge way too much, he gets whacked around the park and then just stands there and abuses the batsman, as an NZ supporter it's kinda embarressing to watch really. He needs to watch how Chris Martin and Bracewell go about their business a bit more.

  • teo. on March 12, 2012, 22:20 GMT

    haha.. how about finding about 7 NEW better players!! Keep guptil, mccullum, taylor, vettori and martin... as for the rest, hope they atleast field well. On a serious note, what NZ can do is restrain their attacking nature, and be a bit more consistent and patient in their plans.

  • on March 13, 2012, 0:18 GMT

    its actually less than .5% of Indias Patchmaster, but yeah. 5% would be 40mil or two australias lol.

  • Mad_Hamish on March 13, 2012, 0:20 GMT

    When the vast majority of McCallum's average as opener comes from a 200 against India in Hyderabad where Khan broke down in his 8th over it's not exactly a sign that he's likely to succeed opening against Steyn and Philander on pitches that do move around. Hell, he averages 36 vs Zimbabwe as an opener, 15 vs Australia

  • Dankokoro on March 13, 2012, 0:27 GMT

    @ Plow - also totally agree. His Bowling aside, his attitude with the bat is totally unacceptable imo. No matter what the situation is, he's trying to hit it out of the park from ball 1. Even if what we need for him is to just stay in for a while and try to make a score. It just leads me to wonder, why noone's telling him to stop doing it. It's school boy stuff and extremely frustrating to see as a fan.