New Zealand v West Indies, 2nd Test, Wellington, 2nd day December 12, 2013

New Zealand's reliable 'sheriff'

BJ Watling's 65 in the first innings against West Indies continued a year where he has cemented what had become a tricky position for New Zealand
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There are a few in-form Test wicketkeeper-batsmen around the world. Brad Haddin is enjoying a wonderful Ashes campaign while AB de Villiers has adapted to his plethora of roles with South Africa to such an extent that he is currently the world's No. 1 batsman.

Then there is BJ Watling, who has been termed New Zealand's 'sheriff' of their lower order. Over the past year he has settled into a role that had become a problem area for New Zealand since Brendon McCullum gave up the Test gloves in early 2010. Gareth Hopkins, Reece Young and Kruger van Wyk were all given decent opportunities to establish themselves without commanding the spot in the long term.

Watling's performance in Wellington followed a theme for the year. Against Bangladesh, in Chittagong, he added 127 for the last wicket with Trent Boult and today the pair skipped to 58 off 51 balls for the last wicket - Boult dominated with 38. The last four wickets in the first innings were worth 145 and in Chittagong, where Watling made his second Test hundred, they added 187.

Corey Anderson said. "I think he's just a smart cricketer. He takes that responsibility really well. He's the sheriff of that lower order and he bats with guys and guys bat around him.

"It's nice to have guys chip in with 20s or 30s and Boulty obviously had 38 at the end there so it always helps. I guess it doesn't demoralise an opposition team but it just saps, or takes, a little bit more energy out of them, knowing that they're so close to finishing but they can't finish the job. So it was nice to get that kind of score to give us a bit of a buffer.

Watling, who began his Test career as a specialist batsman as both an opener and in the middle order, was earmarked for the keeper's position when he made a hundred against Zimbabwe in Napier but on the eve of the following series against South Africa was withdrawn with a hip injury which gave van Wyk his opportunity.

Van Wyk had nine Tests in a row, ending with a pair against Sri Lanka in Colombo, and Watling was restored for the tough assignment of the South Africa tour. Amid the rubble of New Zealand's batting on that trip he made 42 in the second innings at Cape Town and twin 63s in Port Elizabeth. He has not looked back, scoring 576 runs this year which makes him the second-most prolific keeper-batsman behind de Villiers.

Boult, too, is enjoying an impressive run, equalling the most runs by a New Zealand No. 11 and his average of 23 is the highest of players who have batted more than 10 times in the position. After surviving a dropped catch by Tino Best, which was parried for six, he took two boundaries and another six off Shane Shillingford then, with his confidence soaring, collected back-to-back fours off Best including an on drive. When Watling was bowled, it was tempting to suggest Boult had been denied another half-century. Chris Martin he certainly isn't.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY espncricinfomobile on | December 13, 2013, 8:01 GMT

    Why does know one recognize watling as one of the best keeper-batsmen in the world. Easily as good as any in the world at the moment if not better

  • POSTED BY plow on | December 13, 2013, 7:34 GMT

    I forgot, Watling must be NZ's most reliable cricketer along side Taylor. Would be in my top 3 without a doubt.

  • POSTED BY plow on | December 13, 2013, 7:33 GMT

    Yes please shift Southee to number 11. I do not think I have seen a more brainless batsman. Chris Martin was able to apply himself more.. Southee can hit a ball but obviously not as well as boult as the averages prove. Boult is a stunning player, his application is superb, he will serve NZ well for many years and I hope like hell he gets paid accordingly.. Trent your are real star and you career is just beginning, loads of hard work you'll be up there with NZ's best cricketers ever. Stay fit and focused. Don't stop until you hit 40.

  • POSTED BY on | December 13, 2013, 6:39 GMT

    my opinion boult is too far down and southee is too far up i think it should be 8.sodhi 9.boult 10 and 11 wagner and southee

  • POSTED BY android_user on | December 12, 2013, 20:15 GMT

    I've always been a fan of Watling, and he should have reclaimed his spot a lot sooner than he did. He's a great asset to the team not only with the bat, but also behind the stumps.

  • POSTED BY jplterrors on | December 12, 2013, 20:05 GMT

    quite right iceaxe he wd be top 6 for any other test team,or at 5 for India ahead of Kohli

  • POSTED BY iceaxe on | December 12, 2013, 19:24 GMT

    NZ selectors: please move Boult up the batting order! He looks wasted at #11 for batting.

  • POSTED BY espncricinfomobile on | December 13, 2013, 8:01 GMT

    Why does know one recognize watling as one of the best keeper-batsmen in the world. Easily as good as any in the world at the moment if not better

  • POSTED BY plow on | December 13, 2013, 7:34 GMT

    I forgot, Watling must be NZ's most reliable cricketer along side Taylor. Would be in my top 3 without a doubt.

  • POSTED BY plow on | December 13, 2013, 7:33 GMT

    Yes please shift Southee to number 11. I do not think I have seen a more brainless batsman. Chris Martin was able to apply himself more.. Southee can hit a ball but obviously not as well as boult as the averages prove. Boult is a stunning player, his application is superb, he will serve NZ well for many years and I hope like hell he gets paid accordingly.. Trent your are real star and you career is just beginning, loads of hard work you'll be up there with NZ's best cricketers ever. Stay fit and focused. Don't stop until you hit 40.

  • POSTED BY on | December 13, 2013, 6:39 GMT

    my opinion boult is too far down and southee is too far up i think it should be 8.sodhi 9.boult 10 and 11 wagner and southee

  • POSTED BY android_user on | December 12, 2013, 20:15 GMT

    I've always been a fan of Watling, and he should have reclaimed his spot a lot sooner than he did. He's a great asset to the team not only with the bat, but also behind the stumps.

  • POSTED BY jplterrors on | December 12, 2013, 20:05 GMT

    quite right iceaxe he wd be top 6 for any other test team,or at 5 for India ahead of Kohli

  • POSTED BY iceaxe on | December 12, 2013, 19:24 GMT

    NZ selectors: please move Boult up the batting order! He looks wasted at #11 for batting.

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  • POSTED BY iceaxe on | December 12, 2013, 19:24 GMT

    NZ selectors: please move Boult up the batting order! He looks wasted at #11 for batting.

  • POSTED BY jplterrors on | December 12, 2013, 20:05 GMT

    quite right iceaxe he wd be top 6 for any other test team,or at 5 for India ahead of Kohli

  • POSTED BY android_user on | December 12, 2013, 20:15 GMT

    I've always been a fan of Watling, and he should have reclaimed his spot a lot sooner than he did. He's a great asset to the team not only with the bat, but also behind the stumps.

  • POSTED BY on | December 13, 2013, 6:39 GMT

    my opinion boult is too far down and southee is too far up i think it should be 8.sodhi 9.boult 10 and 11 wagner and southee

  • POSTED BY plow on | December 13, 2013, 7:33 GMT

    Yes please shift Southee to number 11. I do not think I have seen a more brainless batsman. Chris Martin was able to apply himself more.. Southee can hit a ball but obviously not as well as boult as the averages prove. Boult is a stunning player, his application is superb, he will serve NZ well for many years and I hope like hell he gets paid accordingly.. Trent your are real star and you career is just beginning, loads of hard work you'll be up there with NZ's best cricketers ever. Stay fit and focused. Don't stop until you hit 40.

  • POSTED BY plow on | December 13, 2013, 7:34 GMT

    I forgot, Watling must be NZ's most reliable cricketer along side Taylor. Would be in my top 3 without a doubt.

  • POSTED BY espncricinfomobile on | December 13, 2013, 8:01 GMT

    Why does know one recognize watling as one of the best keeper-batsmen in the world. Easily as good as any in the world at the moment if not better