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Lockie Ferguson has sights set on Test breakthrough

The New Zealand fast bowler should be coming into his prime and an extended spell with Derbyshire allows him the chance to impress with the red ball

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Lockie Ferguson bends his back  •  Getty Images

Lockie Ferguson bends his back  •  Getty Images

His second ball in international cricket was clocked at 150kph. AB de Villiers was his first IPL wicket. He has the deadliest yorker on the county circuit. It is easy to see why Lockie Ferguson has been earmarked by some as a T20 specialist.
But Ferguson is no freelance gun-for-hire. At 27, and approaching his best years, 'the Whakamana Express' has Test cricket on his radar.
"To get a New Zealand Test cap is still my number one goal," he tells ESPNcricinfo. "The New Zealand team is playing some good Test cricket at the moment, so it's tough to break into the side.
"But I love playing red-ball cricket. I feel comfortable with the red ball in my hand. If I put up results then that's great, and sometimes that doesn't happen, but I'll just keep working away."
"Fortunately the Blackcaps have a lot of Test cricket coming up in the next year - a lot more than the last couple - so with that comes more opportunity."
Indeed, Ferguson's cause is helped by a schedule that sees New Zealand play more than the usual handful of Tests in the next 18 months. Since April 2017, they have played only four times in the longest format but they have 17 Tests pencilled in the FTP.
While more games might spell more chances for the fringe players in the Test side, Ferguson is realistic about the challenge that faces him. He was close to a first cap against West Indies last year but was pipped to the final XI by Matt Henry.
The incumbent pace trio of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner have taken 60 wickets at 21.98 in New Zealand's past four Tests and Colin de Grandhomme offers a fourth seam option with Henry as the established back-up.
"It's one of those things, in sport," he says. "Sometimes you think you're close and you might be further away, and sometimes an injury or two and next thing you're playing.
"But I think the competition is the best part. You'd rather play in a team that's winning and you're challenged for your position every time than play every game and be losing."
With that abundance of fast-bowling options in mind, Ferguson has extended his stint in county cricket until the end of the season, having initially signed for Derbyshire's T20 Blast campaign.
And while he admits his return to first-class cricket was something of "a rude awakening" - he leaked 178 runs in 36 overs against Sussex - Ferguson's first-class record suggests that he should be a handful taking the new ball in Division Two of the County Championship.
Despite his renown as a white-ball bowler, Ferguson has taken at least 30 wickets in the last three Plunket Shield seasons. In 2017-18, he only bowled in eight innings due to international call-ups, but still took five-wickets hauls in five of those.
And with a new head coach to impress in Gary Stead, consistent performances like that can only further his cause for selection.
The other competition in Ferguson's sights is the small matter of next year's World Cup, and he feels that experience of bowling on English wickets - "a little bit slower" than what he is used to - will be invaluable.
If the results are anything to go by, that experience has served him well so far: despite Derbyshire's early exit, he was one of the stars of the Blast's group stage, taking 16 wickets to go with the lowest economy rate among seamers (6.64).
"I've worked a lot on my slower ball," he says. "The top players are good against quick bowling because they can use the pace, and sometimes the faster you bowl the quicker it goes to the boundary.
"So the slower ball was always going to be a good weapon in this comp, especially with the slower English wickets. For the most part, I'm still just trying to attack batters and be aggressive and still look to get them out - that tends to be when I bowl my best balls."
He has been in and out of the ODI side since his debut against Australia - which saw him remove David Warner in his first over - but the prospect of nine group games will mean that keeping fast bowlers fit is a key concern.
And on that front, Ferguson has reason to be optimistic. In an age where every tearaway fast bowler seems to suffer a stress fracture or a prolonged spell on the sidelines as a rite of passage, his injury record is remarkable.
What's the secret? "I feel like every journalist I talk to is trying to jinx me!" he laughs. "I do a lot of work in the gym, a lot of rehab, stretching - the hardest part of fast bowling is trying to work out what works for you.
"Personally I feel like if I'm lifting heavy weights then my body's strong enough to put up with the forces, but the thing that's been massive for me has been planning: jotting down my loads each week, making sure each week's pretty much the same, building it up slowly, giving myself a chance to rest, and planning my overs for the season. That's made a massive difference.
"A marathon runner doesn't just turn up and run a marathon, they build up to it so their body learns to adapt, and it's exactly the same with fast bowling."
If Ferguson continues to stay on the park, he could prove an exciting option for New Zealand. With his sights set on international recognition in all three formats, it may not be long before he has more batsmen hopping around.