Cricket: Neesham targets NZ return

Jimmy Neesham
Jimmy Neesham
Otago all-rounder Jimmy Neesham has put the Volts' top order on notice and has vowed to work on his consistency with the ball.

The talented left-hander wants to bat in the top five and believes that is one of the best ways to improve his chances of playing more international cricket.

Neesham played three one-dayers and three twenty/20 games for New Zealand on the tour of South Africa. While he had limited success and has lost his place in both squads, the experience has whetted his appetite for more and he has a plan to win his spot back.

While just about everyone can lay claim to some all-round ability - Chris Martin being the notable exception - players who can genuinely command a place in the team with both the ball and the bat are a rare breed.

Neesham has provided glimpses of that kind of potential, particularly in the one-day format.

He is an aggressive batsman who strikes the ball cleanly. He looks as though he could hit every delivery to, or over, the boundary.

In 12 one-day games, he has scored 234 runs at an average of 33.42. With a bit more patience, a lot more runs will come.

He is still honing his skills with the ball, but the 22-year-old has fashioned a useful record so far with 17 wickets at 25.29.

If he can transfer that sort of success to international cricket, Neesham can look forward to a long career in the Black Caps. That is certainly what he has planned.

''For me to make contributions to that team I need to be able to bowl seven, eight, nine or 10 overs a game rather than three or four,'' Neesham said.

''So, it is just about consistency and trying to grow into that third seamer's role. At the moment I'm more of a fourth or fifth seamer at that level.

''With the batting, I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing and keep scoring runs in domestic cricket.

''The Black Caps are in search of a Jacob Oram or a Chris Cairns ... and they've tried a few people. That is definitely a target for me - that No 6, No 7 role in the test matches and bowling a few overs.''

Neesham, who scored his maiden first-class century this summer, will hope to press his selection claims today.

The Volts are hosting Auckland in a Plunket Shield game at the University Oval. It is a crucial game for the twenty/20 champions. Otago trails Central Districts by 13 points but, with a maximum of 40 points still at stake, the Volts are firmly in contention to pick up a second national banner this season.

Neesham batted at No 8 for Otago in his last first-class match, in December, but will probably bat one or two spots higher.

Hamish Rutherford and Ian Butler, on international duty, are both missing from the side which beat Northern Districts by eight wickets in Queenstown earlier this month. James McMillan is back from injury and replaces Blair Soper, while young fast bowler Jacob Duffy has a minor quad injury.

Darren Broom is likely to bat at No 3, and Michael Bracewell move up one to open with Aaron Redmond.

Neil Broom should bat in his regular spot at No 4, with Sam Wells at No 5 and Derek de Boorder and Neesham at No 6 and No 7.

Neesham would like to bat at No 5 but knows he has to earn that right.

''The long-term goal for me is to bat No 5 in first-class cricket, so every game I play is a stepping stone to that role. The only thing you can do is keep scoring runs and keep putting your name up there.''

While Neesham was in South Africa with the Black Caps, Otago kept winning. He got up early to listen to the twenty/20 final with Black Caps and Otago team-mate Nathan McCullum, and felt as though he had missed out, once the messages and photographs of Otago's success started coming through on social websites.

While he would like to be still with the Black Caps, he is happy to be back in the Otago environment. Auckland welcomes back fast bowler Matt Quinn, with Kyle Mills on Black Caps duty.


Plunket Shield
University Oval, starts today
Otago:
Aaron Redmond, Michael Bracewell, Darren Broom, Neil Broom, Sam Wells, Derek de Boorder (captain), Jimmy Neesham, Mark Craig, Neil Wagner, James McMillan, Iain Robertson, Nick Beard.

Auckland: Gareth Hopkins (captain), Michael Barry, Michael Bates, Craig Cachopa, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Michael Guptill-Bunce, Dusan Hakaraia, Anaru Kitchen, Bruce Martin, Chris Martin, Matt Quinn.