Mark Greatbatch, the New Zealand coach and selector, has backed Peter Ingram to hold his place for this week's first Test against Australia despite his axing from the one-day team. Ingram's lack of footwork was exposed by Australia's fast men in the ODI series and he was cut for the final match.
The inclusion of the veteran top-order batsman Mathew Sinclair in the 13-man Test squad raised the possibility that Ingram would lose his place in the five-day side, but the selectors will give him another chance. Ingram's only Test appearance came in the win over Bangladesh in Hamilton, where he made 42 and 13, and he will need to lift against Australia.
"Peter Ingram, the last three years in domestic cricket, has averaged 60," Greatbatch said on Monday. "That's where he has really excelled, in domestic cricket, and obviously the test is to jump up. He's had one Test against Bangladesh.
"The core group of this squad has been involved in the last four Test matches with Pakistan [and Bangladesh], and we've won two of them, drew one and lost one. We want to give those opportunities to those players and Peter to show his skills at the highest level."
Greatbatch said Sinclair, 34, was unlikely to add to his 32 Tests during this series unless there was an injury in the batting line-up. Sinclair has not played a Test since March 2008 but has remained in terrific form at domestic level and this season has scored 638 Plunket Shield runs at an average of 58.
"Mathew, 18 months ago, had an opportunity previously with five or six Test matches and it didn't quite work out for him," Greatbatch said. "At the time, the selectors said they were going to look at some other players. Time always moves on for everybody but Mathew has been in good form for the last year and a half, two years.
"He's the cover top-order batter for the Tests, so unless there's an injury he won't play, but it's nice to have him back in the environment. He's experienced, he's mature and he's got competitive juices so that's what we're going to require against these guys."
The top order of Tim McIntosh, BJ Watling and Ingram lacks Test experience and the New Zealanders will be keen to reinstate Jesse Ryder to the side as soon as possible. Ryder is on the recovery path after having surgery in February to reinforce his abdominal wall after suffering groin problems, and the New Zealand management team will keep a close eye on him over the next week.
"He's in the process," Greatbatch said of Ryder's recovery. "He's got a bit of a plan. He's played two days of club cricket and it's gone well. Obviously we need to wait and see whether he's fit this week. He's actually coming down to training over the next few days to be involved and just see where he's at."
For the time being, New Zealand will have to rely on a top three who between them have played 14 Tests. The most experienced of those men, the opener McIntosh, has played 11, but standing up to Mitchell Johnson, Doug Bollinger and the rest of the Australian attack will be a new challenge.
"I haven't faced any of them," McIntosh said. "Any confrontation when you face a new Test bowler is one you look forward to. I know all the guys are chomping at the bit."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo