Gillespie takes in the pain, and picks up six
Mark Gillespie has a "mouth" on his left big toe. "And it doesn't talk either," he said, with a grin across his face.
It's impressive to hear Gillespie joke about it, considering how painful it is. A cut, wide in the middle and thinning out on the sides (in the shape of a mouth), has planted itself way onto his toe, causing so much pain that he only slept for three hours on Saturday night. On Sunday, he took five wickets, so it can't be that bad.
Gillespie spoke about bowling through pain after his five-for in the Hamilton Test and how his idol said all fast bowlers do it. He has since confirmed that the idol he referred to was Allan Donald and his words have never rung truer, because pain has just kept coming. "My toe was just throbbing and yes, it's a lot of pain but it deflects every other pain that you've got because it's just banging away," Gillespie said. "So it's quite good in that regard but just when you're bowling it's not that much fun."
The cut did not stop Gillespie from bagging a six-wicket haul in Wellington which may lose itself in the mass that was the South African innings but was crucial for ending it as soon as possible. After a tough two truncated days of cricket, in which all of New Zealand's bowlers underperformed, Gillespie returned the strongest on day three.
He got the ball to move in to JP Duminy from around the wicket and consistently found good lines and lengths. "If you bowl on any deck in the right areas for long enough then things will happen," he said. "Obviously day one was a disappointing day for all us bowlers, but I don't think it was so much about not exploiting the conditions, we didn't really hit consistent areas."
Gillespie's consistency was spiced up by his aggression. He did not allow any let up, even though he was tired, had bowled long spells and had that mouth talking to him from his toe.
One feeling that may have doused out the pain was the satisfaction of another impressive haul at Test level. "To get off the park was more important and put my feet up but to get six wickets was a pretty good feeling," he admitted. "On a really flat Basin pitch, you just have to keep running in and bending your back and can get rewards out of it but it's such a flat wicket, it's pretty tough."
Local knowledge, especially of the effort required to take wickets, served Gillespie well as the Basin is his home ground. Before his Test call-up, he took eight wickets on the ground in two first-class matches and said conditions had not really changed from then. "It's a similar deck to the one two weeks ago, it just sort of flirts. You think it's going to offer you something at the start, it doesn't really," he said.
Two weeks ago, Test cricket was not on Gillespie's mind at all. Although he was the third top wicket-taker in the Plunket Shield, he did not anticipate being called up to the New Zealand side. "I was getting ready for the season to end and then get my body right over the winter and find a job, find something to do, earn some money. Two weeks ago I was actually going to have to find a job," Gillespie said. "And yeah, now things might be a little bit different."
Instead of a long winter, Gillespie may have to get ready for tours to the West Indies and India. The first step in his recovery is for the mouth to close and his toe to heal. While that happens, he seems to be enjoying his return to Test cricket, which became even more successful in Wellington and enjoyed by most of his family. "In Hamilton, I had my parents and one of my brothers, he heard four of the wickets on the way up in the car and then I got [Mark] Boucher out and he thought it was going to end pretty quickly so he turned around and drove all the way back," Gillespie said.
Luckily, his brother did not miss out this time. "Today I had my wife, my parents, my brothers and their families were here. To do it on my home ground in front of them was pretty special."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent