May 022013

Derby might not be high on many New Zealanders’ must-visit lists, but for Martin Guptill it could be the city that keeps on giving.

The batsman – whose last act in a black helmet was to win the Hamilton ODI for his country against England on one leg in February – stands to gain most from the three-day tour opener starting tomorrow night.

With openers Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford carved in stone for the foreseeable future, No 5 is the contestable spot for the first test at Lord’s on May 16.

Incumbent Dean Brownlie excelled on quick surfaces in Australia and South Africa, but averaged 27 at home against England and shelled two crucial catches in Auckland.

Guptill, back from a hamstring strain and thumb ligament surgery, should bat in the middle order against Derbyshire in the absence of Indian Premier League duo Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor.

He knows the County Ground well, having averaged 43.50 from 16 first-class matches for Derbyshire.

Having been found out as a test opener by pace and swing, No 5 looks a better fit and his brilliant fielding in the cordon may also assist Guptill’s cause.

But he needs a big score on his ‘home’ ground in his first match since suffering the hamstring strain on February 17.

“I’ve been working over the last few weeks with [assistant coach] Bob Carter … we’ve worked closely together and I’ve got some good form under the belt,” Guptill said on departure.

Coach Mike Hesson confirmed McCullum and Taylor would arrive on Tuesday or Wednesday, in time for the final shakedown against England A at Leicester.

It means all 15 players will get a run in the two warmup games.

Whilst the bowling lineup will probably remain unchanged for the first test, pacemen Doug Bracewell and Mark Gillespie get the chance to push their claims in case of any slip-ups from the incumbents.

“For us two warmup games is huge. We’ve been to India and Sri Lanka without playing any, and the conditions in those places are far more foreign to us than English conditions,” Hesson said on arrival yesterday.

“The fact we’ve got a three-dayer and a four-dayer and it’s only been a month since we finished the last test, there will be no complaints from us in terms of being underdone.”

Hesson and stand-in skipper Kane Williamson fronted a low-key arrival press conference where they straight-batted a number of topics, including whether players valued the IPL higher than test cricket, and if England took them too lightly in the drawn series in New Zealand.

– © Fairfax NZ News

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