BJ Watling is eager to make up for lost time, and make the
most of his second tenure as New Zealand's test wicketkeeper.
The first one was just about as brief as it could get,
lasting one game, which produced a maiden century against
Zimbabwe in Napier last January.
It ended with a hip injury the day before the opening test
against South Africa in Dunedin last summer. He'd been a
specialist batsman for his first seven tests, beginning with
an unbeaten half century on debut against Pakistan in Napier
in December 2009.
After the bone inflammation injury, Watling then had to go
through a period of rehabilitation and watch another South
African-born gloveman, Kruger van Wyk, get his opportunity.
Van Wyk's time ended with his omission for this tour, after
nine successive tests, and Watling is back and determined to
make it count.
He acknowledged the personal significance of playing against
South Africa at Newlands, starting on Wednesday. But made it
clear, having been born in Durban but leaving with his family
at 10, he's 100 per cent Kiwi now.
"Coming back here is exciting. But I've spent the last 17
years in New Zealand and it definitely feels it's my home,"
He reckons he's "reasonably happy" with his glovework and is
in good form with the bat, and has a test average of 30.
Watling has made good ODI runs for New Zealand recently, and
will bat No 6 at Cape Town against a tough South African
Having missed the T20 series which started the tour, Watling
got some game time in domestic cricket for Northern Districts
shortly before Christmas. He's clear on his job
"I've got to score runs and do the job with the gloves. I
didn't get as many runs back home as I'd have liked, so I'm
just chipping away and trying to find a few key areas for me
to work on. But I'm feeling reasonably confident."
Not only do the two tests coming up represent a terrific
challenge for New Zealand, who sit a lowly No 8 in test
rankings to South Africa's No 1, but "it's a great
opportunity for us to stamp our mark".
"We know South Africa have got a whole bunch of guys in the
top 10 batting and bowling. But we've got to look at it as an
opportunity to come and show what we've got.
"We have to try to put them under the pump, sustain pressure
for long periods and not be too daunted by the prospect of
After all, he added, "this is why you play cricket. You want
to test yourself against the best".
- by David Leggat in Cape Town