Thursday, December 10, 2009

Urgent Kallis turns to oxygen aid

A relaxed Jacques Kallis after nets at the Wanderers, Johannesburg, February 24, 2009
Jacques Kallis is facing an uphill battle

Jacques Kallis is using an oxygen chamber to try and speed his recovery from the fractured rib that has threatened his participation in the opening Test against England at Centurion Park.

Kallis suffered the injury during the Champions League Twenty20 in October and was ruled out of the recent one-day series. It is a race against time to get him fit for the opening five-day encounter, with some suggestions that he may struggle to make the starting XI in any capacity or be unable to bowl during the four-match series.

However, South Africa coach Mickey Arthur was not ruling out one of his key players and was still holding onto hope that he can play a part with the ball. He echoed Mike Proctor's view after the convenor of selectors said Kallis was 50-50 to appear at Centurion Park, although Arthur was more positive about Kallis' prospects as a batsman.

"We certainly haven't ruled him out of bowling during the series and we are still working hard with him ahead of the first Test," Arthur told Cricinfo. "He has been using an oxygen chamber to try and speed the recovery and is doing extensive rehab every day.

"At the moment the best-case scenario is that he bats and bowls at Centurion which is probably 50-50, the next best is that he just bats which is probably around 60-40 and the worst case scenario is that he is only fit for Durban."

Kallis would not be the first player to use oxygen therapy to aid recovery from injury. Simon Jones underwent similar treatment in 2005 when he was trying to be fit for the final Ashes Test although the process was ultimately unsuccessful for him. The benefit of the chambers is that they can supply 100% pure oxygen which helps the body fight injury compared with the normal air which contains only about 20% oxygen.

Kallis played in the second Twenty20 international against England before the extent of the rib injury was confirmed. He will be fully assessed when the South African squad meets up in Potchefstroom on Friday for a three-day training camp. "Our priority was the Test series which is why he was pulled from the one-dayers so he didn't do further damage," Arthur said. "We will have a far better idea of where we stand on Sunday."

Arthur also confirmed that Dale Steyn was progressing well after his hamstring injury and that the paceman bowled six overs in the nets on Wednesday. Steyn was ruled out of the final two ODIs but now looks set to lead the pace attack alongside Makhaya Ntini, who will reach 100 caps, and probably Morne Morkel.

New Bingo Games

Non-contracted players face tight deadline

Non-contracted Pakistan players hoping to be in the next IPL auction will have to contact the league directly to be put into the pool for the next edition of the league. Four Pakistan players already have contracts with franchises but they stand suspended for now, after failing to obtain the relevant paperwork and clearances in time. They can only play if their franchises choose to cut another foreign player from the squad, but for any other player hoping to line up a spot, the process appears more straightforward.

"Suspended players need only go to their franchises," Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, told Cricinfo. "All others just write to me and I will then put their names into the auction."

The auction is due to take place on January 19 next year, but all requests and paperwork will have to be handed in by December 31. Theoretically, a number of Pakistan players would make for attractive acquisitions after their stirring run to win the World Twenty20 in June this year.

Besides the four on suspended contracts - Kamran Akmal, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul and Misbah-ul-Haq - seven others played in the IPL during the first season; Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Asif, Salman Butt, Shoaib Akhtar and Younis Khan. New players who have impressed since, such as Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Aamer and Umar Akmal, might also be in the running.

But in practical terms it may not be so easy, even if the IPL says it is "excited" by the prospects of Pakistani participation next season. Franchises may well be put off by the uncertainty of acquiring a Pakistan player during a period where relations between India and Pakistan are particularly turbulent. And in any case, the cream of the squad is currently on a tour of New Zealand and Australia, making the process of applications that much more difficult.

After Pakistan players were not allowed to participate in the second IPL earlier this year by their own government, the door to their return was left a little ajar yesterday. That too was only after all parties negotiated their way through a serious bureaucratic tangle, which culminated in the Indian ministry of external affairs clearing visas for the four suspended players. "We are excited that they can participate," Modi said. "They need to write individually and not through agents by end of the month. The sooner the better."

O'Brien and openers lift New Zealand

New Zealand 47 for 0 trail Pakistan 223 (Farhat 117*, O'Brien 4-35, Tuffey 4-52) by 176 runs

Don't be fooled by the score. It was indeed a flat track in Napier but Iain O'Brien was on a mission to make his last Test memorable and Pakistan's top order, as ever, was in a self-destructive mood. Imran Farhat, though, lifted Pakistan from the depths of 59 for 5 and resuscitated his career with a fighting century but New Zealand will be more than pleased with their efforts, especially after a dogged batting display from the openers, on the first day of the final Test.

Until Farhat produced his hundred, and Tim McIntosh and BJ Watling stitched together New Zealand's highest opening partnership of the series, it was all O'Brien. At one point his figures read: 4.2-4-3-3. He was hostile throughout his spell, consistently bowling over 140 kmph, and was always accurate but, even so, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that even he would have been slightly surprised by the results.

On a flat pitch, Pakistan's top order contrived to implode yet again by playing poor cricket. Only one batsman, Misbah-ul-Haq, was taken out by a difficult delivery; the rest were simply not good enough. Tim Southee claimed the initial breakthrough when Salman Butt left a gaping gap between bat and pad to lose his middle stump, after which O'Brien took over. And how.

O'Brien sussed out quickly that Faisal Iqbal was a sitting target because of his awkward feet movement and aimed one at his throat, forcing an ugly fend to the slip cordon. He tied up Yousuf with his disciplined lines and lengths before hurling one short of a length outside off stump. Yousuf thought it would be the ideal chance to break the shackles but was done in by the extra bounce and edged it to second slip.

It was the recurring theme of a bizarre morning. O'Brien tied up edgy batsmen with his discipline before delivering the knock-out blow with some thing extra. Misbah got a gem early in his innings: The ball held its line outside off and Misbah couldn't help edging it behind.

Pakistan's debacle was exemplified by Umar Akmal's dismissal. It was a short-of-length delivery that straightened well outside off stump. It could have been left alone or cut to the point boundary but Umar, the best of the Pakistan batsman in this series, just hung his bat out and guided it straight to gully.

Fortunately for Pakistan, though, Farhat couldn't have chosen a better moment to resuscitate his career. It would be churlish to dismiss Farhat's effort as streaky, though there were several play and misses and a couple of curious slogs which would have raised blood-pressure levels in the dressing room, but that's how he seems to play. There were spurts where Farhat seemed to lose concentration and went for pressure-reliving big hits and there were phases where he looked to be in control. Or something resembling it at least.

The fact that the last century by a Pakistan opener outside the subcontinent was Salman Butt's effort in Sydney way back in 2005 would make fans overlook Farhat's iffy patches and remember the good things from the knock. Amid nervous slashes, Farhat played a couple of off drives - the one in the seventh over against Chris Martin being the shot of the day - and a few well-timed cover drives. There was a flamboyant square drive too, on a bent knee for added effect, a crunchy pull shot and he definitely got better in the second session, during which he seemed surer of where his off stump was. He grew increasingly bolder and played big shots against Daniel Vettori to reach his hundred. Farhat found support in Mohammad Aamer in the afternoon and proceeded to lead Pakistan out of shambles.

Farhat's knock, and perhaps more importantly Aamer's defiance, revealed two truths: The pitch was a true, firm surface that did offer bounce but not much movement, and the other Pakistan batsmen didn't apply themselves. Luckily for them, Farhat refused to fade away without a fight. He added 69 runs with Aamer and 35 with Umar Gul before Daryl Tuffey hastened the end with a triple strike post tea. Tuffey terminated Gul's defiance and removed Mohammad Asif for a first-ball duck before he took out the enterprising Danish Kaneria. However, till Farhat did his thing, it was O'Brien who owned the morning and Ian Smith was moved enough to say on air: "Someone offer his wife a job here ... we don't wanna miss this fella!"

The icing on the cake for New Zealand was the performance from their openers; McIntosh, who has been lbw a few times in this series, took care not to get the front leg in line and BJ Watling didn't embarrass himself on debut. Their 47-run stand capped a near-perfect day for the hosts.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

No home-and-away for new FTP

New details of the proposed post-2012 Future Tours Programme have emerged with David Morgan, the ICC president, stating the home-and-away component of the current model could be scrapped. All teams at present must play each other twice in Test and one-day series over a six-year cycle, but Morgan said the new FTP could reduce the mandatory requirement to one series.

Such a move would allow national boards greater flexibility in arranging bilateral "icon" series, and could lead to an over all reduction in scheduling depending on their maneuverings. Morgan was hopeful the relaxation of the home-and-away requirement would appease player unions, who have been outspoken in their criticism of the demands currently placed on elite cricketers.

"The process is similar but the results will be different," Morgan told Cricinfo of the draft FTP. "I can't elaborate, but at the moment it's a requirement that in any six year cycle each full member has to play the other home and away in a minimum of two Tests and three one-day internationals. I believe there will be a relaxation of that. Perhaps not in the number of games, but there's the possibility of instead having to play everybody home and away in a fixed cycle, you may either play them away or home.

"The FTP essentially is a basket of bilateral agreements between the ten full members with some consideration given to the more proficient associate countries like Ireland and the Netherlands. That set of bilateral arrangements is continuing. I firmly believe that it is very important to consult with the players. Where FICA [Federation of International Cricketers' Associations] is recognised, which is in the majority of countries, we are very happy to liaise and discuss things with Tim May and his team. I find them a responsible body."

FICA last month called on the ICC to scrap the FTP in its current format and enlist the services of independent consultants to devise a new scheduling system. In a letter addressed to the chief executives of cricket's ten full-voting countries, which has been obtained by Cricinfo, May, the union's chief executive, proposed an annual Test and one-day championship he believed would add context and attract renewed interest in the game.

The notion of a Test championship model has been supported by a number of cricketing bodies, Cricket Australia and the Marylebone Cricket Club among them. FICA's proposal would see the top eight nations split into two four-team conferences, with semi-finals and finals to be played every three years. The fourth and final year of the proposed cycle would be referred to as an "icon year", and include the World Cup as well as high-profile bilateral series such as India-Pakistan and the Ashes.

"We believe that the model of bi lateral ad hoc series that have been cricket's structure for the past century (and again from 2012-2020) is fast becoming an outdated model, and will be unable to cater for the changing cricket landscape," May wrote. "It is unusual for FICA to request the ICC and its member boards to review a decision of the ICC board, however, we are of the firm opinion that there are serious flaws in the proposed 2012-2020 FTP that will severely threaten the primacy of international cricket in future years."

The likelihood of such a model being adopted appears remote, however, with chief executives gravitating toward an FTP similar to that currently in operation, with the exception of the home-and-away requirement. Following a two-day board meeting in Johannesburg in October, the ICC issued a release stating an in principle agreement had been reached on the draft FTP.

Sri Lanka aim to put Test thrashing behind them

It would be easy, in the immediate aftermath of India's comprehensive Test series victory, to bill the hosts as favourites to win the two Twenty20 internationals against Sri Lanka. It would also be presumptuous because there are significant changes in personnel and the format is one in which India have struggled since the delirious high of World Twenty20 glory in 2007.

The Indian players are stars in their respective IPL teams but their results have been ordinary when playing together as an international side: in nine Twenty20 internationals since 2008, they have lost six and won three. The first victory was a remarkable come-from-behind effort inspired by the Pathan brothers in Sri Lanka, the other two were against Bangladesh and Ireland during a woeful World Twenty20 campaign in England this year.

The two significant problems India had in England, however, will be missing from these two games. Virender Sehwag, who had an injured shoulder during the World Twenty20, is back and in frightening form, and the other batsmen's weaknesses against the rising delivery are unlikely to be exposed on the flat and true pitches in India.

Gary Kirsten, the India coach, had said after they were eliminated from the World Twenty20 that there were holes in the Twenty20 set-up and teams had worked out strategies to effectively negate India's strengths. The next World Twenty20 is in May 2010 and the opportunities to formulate, fine-tune and effect plans are limited.

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, had a terrific World Twenty20 and were unbeaten until the final, which they lost to Pakistan. They were the tournament's most vibrant team: the evergreen Sanath Jayasuriya and Tillakaratne Dilshan's daring improvisations gave them fast starts, while the combination of Murali, Mendis and Malinga was simply too much for most opponents to handle. Since then, however, Sri Lanka have lost three matches on the trot - one to Pakistan and two to New Zealand, that too at home.

Their Test bowlers were battered by the Indian batsmen and Sri Lanka will welcome the addition of Lasith Malinga's pace and yorker-bowling skills to their attack. Jayasuriya will join Dilshan to form a destructive, match-winning opening combination. The question, though, is whether Ajantha Mendis will be able to exercise any control over a batting line-up that treated him with disdain over the last month.

Form guide

(most recent first)

India - LLLWW
Sri Lanka - LLLLW

Watch out for

Lasith Malinga: When he's bowling well, Malinga can unleash yorkers at will and his low point of release makes it extremely hard for batsmen to get under his deliveries. In the World Twenty20, he developed a slower full-toss and, while the delivery sounds rather harmless, it foxed several batsmen and left stumps flattened.

India's middle-order: The middle-order was shuffled frequently during the World Twenty20 and their performances were disappointing. Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Yusuf Pathan struggled against the short ball.

Team news

India have rested Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh from the Twenty20 internationals which means the bowling line-up is likely to be Ashish Nehra, Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma and Pragyan Ojha. There's is a doubt over Sreesanth, though, because the bowler has an upset stomach. If he is unfit one of the rookies - Sudeep Tyagi, R Ashwin and Ashok Dinda - could get a look in.

India (possible): 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Pragyan Ojha, 9 Sreesanth, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Ashish Nehra.

Murali injured ligaments in a couple of fingers while training during the third Test and is likely to be rested from the Twenty20 matches.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Sanath Jayasuriya, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt & wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Chamara Kapugedera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Kaushalya Weeraratne, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Ajantha Mendis, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Chanaka Welegedara.

Pitch and conditions

There's no rain forecast in Nagpur but the difference between day and night temperatures are significant which means dew could be a factor in the evening. The pitch is the same as the one on which India scored 354 in an ODI against Australia in October so expect more runs.

"It's a late evening start. We may see dew come into effect," MS Dhoni said. "But by the time dew comes in the game may be over. It won't be that big a factor. Overall it [pitch] will be good for batting, but in Twenty20 its very tough to predict. All of a sudden you look to go aggressive and lose quite a few wickets at quick intervals and you are not able to get big runs."

Stats and Trivia

  • Both teams will be coming into this game on losing streaks - Sri Lanka have lost their last four (before which they had won six in a row) while India have lost their last three. Overall, Sri Lanka have a slightly better win-loss record, 14-9 in 23 games, compared to India's 9-7 in 18 matches.

  • India have played only once at home and once against Sri Lanka, and have won both games - they beat Australia by seven wickets at the Brabourne Stadium in 2007, and Sri Lanka by three wickets in Colombo earlier this year.

  • Sri Lanka have preferred batting first in Twenty20 games, winning nine and losing five. When batting second, they've won five and lost four. For India the numbers are almost the same - 5-4 when batting first, and 4-3 when chasing.

  • Tillakaratne Dilshan is the leading run-scorer in Twenty20 internationals among batsmen from these two teams, with Sanath Jayasuriya in second place.


"We have to try and put the Test series behind us. We have a lot of hard work to do all around to keep improving and we have a good opportunity in these two Twenty20 games. The motivation is always there, but we need to start from scratch."
Kumar Sangakkara wants his team to get over the 2-0 defeat in the Test series.

"Considering we are playing in India, it would be a bit different for the bowlers, as the batsmen would go after them from the very first ball. It looks to be a small game, just four overs, but the amount of effort that's needed, that's what it is all about."
Dhoni says his bowlers might have more trouble making the transition from Tests to Twenty20.

Ponting wary of dangerous Roach

Any bowler who can regularly send down six consecutive 150kph rockets is a man to respect. Kemar Roach did exactly that at the Adelaide Oval, where his speed was as impressive as Sulieman Benn's bounce. Although he finished up with slightly disappointing match figures of 3 for 159, Roach gave the Australians plenty to think about as they battled out a draw.

Had he converted a couple of his tricky second-innings deliveries into wickets, Australia might not have escaped a defeat that ensured they will hold the Frank Worrell Trophy at the end of the series. As it stands, Australia head to Perth for the third Test with a 1-0 advantage but the captain Ricky Ponting said Roach would be a serious challenge on what is traditionally Australia's quickest surface.

"He'll be a handful in Perth," Ponting said. "As you can see, every spell he's bowled, almost every ball he's bowled, is hovering around 150kph. We knew that he was capable of that. He's hit his areas really well. He hasn't sprayed the ball around too much. He's bowling well for them at the moment."

Roach doesn't have the height of the great West Indies fast men of yesteryear like Curtly Ambrose and Joel Garner, but his skiddy action is still tough to face. Ponting had trouble against him in the first innings and was hurried up by a quick delivery that he tried to pull, but only managed to send a catch to Dwayne Bravo at midwicket.

"Someone who is pretty short at that pace can get the ball to skid onto you pretty quickly off the wicket with not much bounce," Ponting said. "We've played him pretty well here [in Adelaide]. The ball reverse-swung for them in both innings. He's a handful, there's no doubt about that. He's someone who could play a fair bit of Test cricket for them in the future."

The WACA might not be the fast-bowling paradise it once was, but Roach stands out as the most fearsome of the seamers in an attack otherwise made up of medium pacers like Bravo and Darren Sammy, and the medium-fast Ravi Rampaul. Roach is only 21 and is still learning his craft, but Ponting said the Australians would need to continue to show him plenty of respect.

"Anyone that's bowling that sort of pace will trouble any batter, especially later in the game when the bounce gets a bit variable," Ponting said. "That's when you're at your most vulnerable against guys who bowl at that sort of pace."

Monday, December 7, 2009

India's spell at the top not in their hands

The lack of Tests in India's upcoming schedule could limit the duration of their No. 1 ranking

Ironically, India have risen to the top in a format some would accuse them of neglecting - and their low frequency of Tests could cause them to lose their crown sooner rather than later. They are only the third team, after Australia and South Africa, to reach the summit of the ICC's Test rankings since they were introduced in 2001 but their time there could be brief because of a schedule that contains only two Tests in the next 11 months.

Which means the duration of their reign will be determined by how their closest rivals, South Africa and Australia, fare in the next few months. "It is a bit of a concern, as we play only two Test matches in the next six months, so it will be tough for us to maintain the position," MS Dhoni said after India's victory in Mumbai. "I can't do anything about the schedule. It is good to play Test cricket, at the same time we are here to play whatever cricket we are asked to play."

Before their 2-0 victory, India were ranked third with 119 points after Sri Lanka and chart-toppers South Africa (122). The two consecutive innings victories in Kanpur and Mumbai earned India five points, taking them two clear of South Africa, while Sri Lanka slipped below Australia to fourth place.

During the period in which India have only two Tests - against Bangladesh - to maintain a hold on their No. 1 position, South Africa play at least four and Australia eight. A 2-0 win against Bangladesh isn't likely to give India too many ratings points either, so they could be overtaken depending on how South Africa do against England, and how Australia go against West Indies and Pakistan at home, and in the away series in New Zealand and against Pakistan in England.

What is certain is that India will end 2009 as the No. 1 Test side because even a 3-0 victory for Australia in the ongoing series against eighth-ranked West Indies will give them only one point, taking their tally to 117, and no improvement in position.

India's immediate threat is South Africa, but they will have to beat England by a 2-0 margin or better to reclaim the No. 1 spot. A 2-0 or 3-1 victory for South Africa will take them marginally ahead of India, 3-0 will given them 126 points, and 4-0 will extend their lead over India by three. However, if England win 1-0 or 2-1, South Africa's tally will reduce to 117, increasing India's lead by seven points.

If South Africa fail to recapture the top spot against England, India's reign will receive an extension because even if Australia blank Pakistan 3-0 at home, following a 3-0 win against West Indies, their ratings points will increase only by three to 119. They will then need to win in New Zealand and beat Pakistan in England - an away series for Australia - to move up the ladder.

Gayle century swings game West Indies' way

West Indies 451 and 8 for 284 (Gayle 155*, Johnson 4-85) lead Australia 438 by 296 runs

Chris Gayle has more than his share of critics, often due to an impassive appearance that is sometimes taken for apathy, but he proved how much he cares about his team's results with a patient century in Adelaide. Gayle's first Test hundred against Australia gave West Indies a 296-run lead with a day to play and on a turning pitch Australia will have their work cut out against the spin and bounce of Sulieman Benn.

In the past century, no team has made more than 239 in the fourth innings to win an Adelaide Test and if Gayle doesn't declare overnight, Australia might need to beat the all-time record of 315. West Indies finished at 8 for 284 with Gayle, who batted throughout the day, on 155 and Ravi Rampaul yet to score after Benn skied a catch in the final over off Mitchell Johnson.

A draw remains the most likely result, especially with the possibility of some final-day showers, but Gayle at least significantly slashed the odds of West Indies going 2-0 down with one match to play. Following Australia's innings victory inside three days in Brisbane, Gayle and the team management kept their players in the dressing rooms for a long discussion, during which they resolved that the same result could not be allowed to happen again.

Dwayne Bravo, Brendan Nash, Benn and Kemar Roach have all stood up in Adelaide and on the fourth day it was the captain's turn to lead from the front. A late challenge from Johnson, who snared Bravo and Denesh Ramdin in one over on the way to 4 for 85, couldn't mask the fact that for most of the day Australia's bowling lacked bite. West Indies could have accelerated quicker in the final session to increase the pressure on the hosts but they remain in a strong position thanks to their captain.

It was an innings of uncharacteristic restraint from Gayle, who for most of the day resisted his urges to hit over the top, and instead scored most of his boundaries along the ground with well-timed straight drives or clips through the leg-side. Australia tried to tempt him early in the day with Marcus North and Nathan Hauritz bowling an outside off-stump line but he was happy to leave, and apart from trying to force a couple of shots into the turf and back past Hauritz, his patience held up.

His century came from 179 deliveries and it prompted a display of clear emotion from the usually poker-faced Gayle, who beamed towards the dressing rooms and swung his bat in joy, having never before passed 71 against Australia. Late in the day he began to suffer cramps but was still willing to sprint for singles and keep his team moving, and it wasn't until his 257th delivery that he registered a six, with a pull over midwicket off North.

Wickets gradually fell around him but nowhere near regularly enough for Australia's liking. They thought they had Gayle on 26 when they asked for a review of a leg-side take by Brad Haddin off Johnson but replays showed the ball had come off Gayle's leg. Australia had already burned a review on a caught-behind appeal against Adrian Barath and were left to rue their poor judgment when Nash later padded up to Doug Bollinger, who kicked the turf in disgust when Asad Rauf turned down a strong appeal. The action led to Bollinger being reported by the match referee Chris Broad.

It was that sort of day for Australia, frustration upon frustration, as they felt decisions went against them and their spinners failed to have the same impact Benn had enjoyed on the third day. There was turn and bounce for both slow men and one Hauritz delivery that ripped back viciously to Bravo suggested that Benn will be a handful on Tuesday.

Peter Siddle was clearly not at full fitness due to hamstring tightness and bowled only eight overs, while Bollinger, Johnson and Shane Watson battled hard with little success for most of the day. Watson delivered a searing, swinging yorker that clipped the leg stump of Nash (24), after Bollinger trapped Shivnarine Chanderpaul directly in front for 27.

Ramnaresh Sarwan fell for 7 when he sent a leg-side catch to Haddin off Johnson and Barath (17) was unfortunate to be run out at the non-striker's end when Gayle's straight drive was adjudged to have touched the bowler Hauritz before crashing into the stumps. It was the only thing Gayle did wrong all day.

Watling called to boost struggling New Zealand

The in-form BJ Watling is in line for his Test debut after replacing Peter Fulton for the series-deciding third Test against Pakistan in Napier from Friday. New Zealand's selectors avoided wholesale changes after they were dismissed for 99 and 263 in the loss in Wellington on Sunday, with Watling the only new face in the 13-man outfit.

"I had a fair idea I was in the mix but you are always shocked and excited when you get the call-up," said Watling, who played two Twenty20 internationals in the UAE last month. He has performed well in the State Shield and scored 90 and 136 in the most recent rounds of the Plunket Shield. The selector Mark Greatbatch said Watling showed outstanding potential as a developing batsman.

"He's a quality young player with good technique," Greatbatch said. "With the series at one-all we need to regroup and we believe Watling can add strength at the top.

"There was a lot of discussion about the batting line-up, but this was not a time for wholesale change. We are aiming to give guys the opportunity to succeed."

Fulton managed 42 runs in the opening two games, which was only marginally worse than the return of Grant Elliott and slightly better than Tim McIntosh. Ross Taylor has been the key local batsman in the series, scoring 280 runs, including 97 in the second innings in Wellington.

Greatbatch added that New Zealand might make some changes to their batting order, pushing Flynn - who batted at No.3 in Wellington - down the order, and Guptill to No.3 from his opening slot.

New Zealand squad Tim McIntosh, Martin Guptill, Daniel Flynn, Ross Taylor, BJ Watling, Grant Elliott, Brendon McCullum (wk), Daniel Vettori (capt), Daryl Tuffey, Iain O'Brien, Chris Martin, Jeetan Patel, Tim Southee.

ICC Cricket Updates