New Zealand in Bangladesh, 2004-05 October 7, 2004

Another chance for Sinclair

Mathew Sinclair has been given another chance to prove his worth to New Zealand © Getty Images

Mathew Sinclair has been named as Michael Papps's replacement in New Zealand's Test squad which is currently in Bangladesh. Papps dislocated his shoulder during a training session at Lincoln, an injury that will keep him out of action for four to six weeks.

While it has yet to be determined whether Sinclair will open the innings or bat at No. 3, it is an overdue opportunity for him to re-stake his claim in the New Zealand side. He has been on the fringes far too long for a player with his run-scoring potential. He has had random chances in recent times to establish a more permanent place, but has not enjoyed the consistency of selection that others in the side have been given.

The only player in the New Zealand Test squad to have scored two Test double-centuries, Sinclair had been told that he had matters of technique to sort out before earning more opportunities at the highest level. As a result he sought top-flight assistance with Glenn Turner, the former national captain and coach. Yet, too often those who have been preferred to Sinclair have been guilty of squandering their opportunities, and somehow managing to survive the selectorial axe.

In naming the Test side for Bangladesh, Craig McMillan was left out, although he was still named in the one-day squad that was announced today. McMillan, Sinclair, Lou Vincent and Scott Styris have been the most obvious contenders for the two middle-order spaces available when Mark Richardson, Stephen Fleming and Nathan Astle have been included.

Vincent, who scored a Test century on debut, like Sinclair and Styris, has also been sent away to work on his game, and is yet to convince those in control that he is worth calling back. The situation of having players who can be put under pressure in this area of the game is uncommon in New Zealand cricket history, and is the result of intensified development work to create this very problem.

Sinclair has an outstanding opportunity, especially before the tour of Australia, to make the most of his chance and to keep the pressure on McMillan. Aiding his cause was his selection as the player of the series after New Zealand A's tour to South Africa. With cricket of a highly competitive level to bank on, Sinclair has it all in front of him, and the battle for places in the side promises to be one of the more appealing contests in New Zealand this summer.

Another prospect was thrown into the mix today, albeit in a one-day sense, with the inclusion of yet another middle-order contender in Peter Fulton, the Canterbury Country left-hand batsman. He has made a significant impact on the domestic scene, and is the most recent New Zealander to have scored a first-class triple-century. Another tall player, he stands just short of two metres (6ft 6ins), so he can look Jacob Oram in the eye.

Peter Fulton has been rewarded with a call-up to the national side after a good showing for New Zealand A © Getty Images

Fulton, like Sinclair, had a promising tour of South Africa, and was probably the most consistent of the New Zealand A batsmen, without ever cracking the sort of big score that Sinclair managed. But after injuring his shoulder in the last four-day match, he was rested from the first two one-dayers, only to return and top-score with 98 in New Zealand A's thrilling attempt at chasing 297 in the third and final game. In the end the South Africans won by just four runs.

Fulton said today that, like most players, reaching the international stage had been his goal and he was very excited to learn that he had been included in the side. He said he had thoroughly enjoyed the A system that New Zealand has embraced this year, with a series against Sri Lanka A earlier in the year being followed by the trip to South Africa, from which the players only returned home yesterday.

"It's good to play this standard of cricket, and I feel pretty well prepared. South Africa A were a really strong team, and it was the strongest standard of cricket that I have played," said Fulton. "Hopefully, I will get a game or two over there but I am taking nothing for granted, I just want to make the most of it."

Fulton spent most of the New Zealand winter in England, playing for Lowerhouse in the Lancashire League, and helped them to win the Worsley Cup. It was the first time in their 140-year history that Lowerhouse had won anything.

"It was quite odd playing a club game and having 3000 people there when we won the final," said Fulton, who scored around 1100 runs and took 60 wickets in regular club matches and one-day games during the season.

The other feature of the one-day selection was the recall of Andre Adams, who impressed with the level of vitality that had returned to his game after experience with Essex in the County Championship this year.

As expected, Stephen Fleming was not included in the one-day side, and along with Jacob Oram, will be rested in preparation for the tour of Australia that follows the Bangladesh trip. Daniel Vettori will captain New Zealand's one-day outfit in his absence. John Bracewell, the coach, explained that the selectors were looking to broaden the captaincy experience available in the side, especially now that Chris Cairns is unavailable for Test selection.

Lynn McConnell is a journalist in New Zealand