Saturday, May 18, 2024

COMMENT: Conway deserves test berth

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Opening batsman Will Young deserves a second chance, says Times columnist Ivan Agnew. Photo Central Districts Cricket Association

Having scored a splendid century for New Zealand A against the touring West Indies, opening batsman Will Young deserves a second chance despite his meagre five runs in the Seddon Park test, won by the Black Caps by an innings and 134 runs.

However No 5 batsman Henry Nicholls (7) may not be so lucky in the face of the challenge presented by prodigiously talented South African-born Devon Conway leading up to Friday’s second test at the Basin Reserve.

In scoring his third double century with a personal best 251, gifted captain Kane Williamson was the epitome of intelligent batting as the home team amassed a first innings 519/7 declared.

Yet overall, it was far from a complete team performance with Tom Latham (86), Kyle Jamieson (51) and Ross Taylor (38) the only others to score more than 14.

But with Tim Southee (4/35) leading the charge, backed by Kyle Jamieson (2/25), Neil Wagner (2/33) and Trent Boult (1/30), the Indies could offer no more than a token 138.

That improved to 247 in the second innings thanks to Jermaine Blackwood’s 104 and Alzarri Joseph’s 86, but not enough to prevent the Black Caps bolting home on the fourth day.

Bowling a fuller length than usual, the admirable Wagner fully deserved his 4/66 with the 6ft 8in (2m) Jamieson (2/42) confirming his all-rounder status.

Having thrashed India, England, Bangladesh, and England and the West Indies once more in five of the previous six tests and registering a draw against Sri Lanka, New Zealand have fashioned a marvellous record on home soil.

However the nightmare of last season’s tour of Australia still haunts when the team wilted badly.

Now, however, the team looks stronger, especially if all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme and wicketkeeper BJ Watling recover from injuries and Conway gets the promotion he so richly deserves.

Having failed to field a spinner for the Hamilton test, the pacemen all bowled to a nagging length. And these didn’t include speedster Lockie Ferguson who took a five-wicket bag in the T20 with his lightning 150km/h plus strikes.

Meanwhile having named their 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa squad, the Blues look good to at least repeat their second placing behind the Crusaders and hopefully beat them.

That confidence is based on the selection of nine All Black forwards, four of them props with Nepo Laulala joining Alex Hodgman, Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Karl Tu’inukuafe.

In linking up with Akira Ioane, Hoskins Sotutu and Dalton Papalii, Dillon Hunt also gives them four AB loose forwards along with lock Patrick Tuipulotu.

Add to that centre Rieko Ioane and left wing Caleb Clarke and they don’t lack backline pace and flair.

Having scored eight tries in 10 games for Taranaki, commentators nightmare Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens can play wing and fullback equally well.

Young Aucklander Zarn Sullivan is another classy fullback lacking only in experience.

While head coach Leon MacDonald admits Beauden Barrett’s experience will be missed when he heads for Japan, Otere Black played well at first-five and Stephen Perofeta will be eager to stake his claim after being sidelined with injury this year.

While NZ Maori deservedly rejoiced in their 28-21 win against Moana Pasifika, the latter did enough to show they deserve inclusion in Super Rugby.

  • Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer

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