Cricket: Franklin hoping history strikes twice

James Franklin. Photo Getty
James Franklin. Photo Getty
The last time James Franklin was in Cape Town he hit his only test century and remains in the New Zealand, and international, record books for it.

Franklin and then-captain Stephen Fleming shared a 256-run eighth wicket stand against South Africa in April 2006, still the third best ever for that wicket, and the New Zealand record.

In that three-test series, the left arm swing bowler also took 15 wickets at 25.6 each, dismissing top order batsmen nine times, including South African captain Graeme Smith and pugnacious wicketkeeper-batsman AB de Villiers three times apiece.

So it's understandable the 32-year-old allrounder hopes ''history might strike twice" when the first test of this series starts on Wednesday.

Of the 39 hat-tricks taken in test history, only two have been by New Zealanders - offspinner Peter Petherick in Pakistan in 1976-77 and, against Bangladesh in Dhaka in just his fourth test in 2004, Franklin.

His talent is not in question. Yet ups and downs in form mean Franklin has played just 30 of New Zealand's 93 tests since his March 2001 debut.

Franklin averages 21.21 with the bat, while his 81 wickets have cost 33.77 each. Those numbers don't do justice to his abilities and he knows he must deliver as one of the senior figures in a New Zealand side short on experience.

''I'm not a newbie. I've been around a wee while," he said.

''The likes of myself, Jeetan Patel and Chris Martin are the older guys and it's important if we do get opportunities in this test we stand up and make contributions that hopefully mean we're in the fight and in with a chance of winning come later in the test."

Franklin is expected to bat No 7 and be the fourth seamer. The role may require some blocking up of an end, but he'd like to think, if the ball is swinging, he gets a chance in favourable conditions.

He has worked hard on his bowling with new specialist coach Shane Bond, and is happy with progress. A four-wicket bag for Wellington in their win over Central Districts early in December left him feeling he was heading in the right direction.

Technical issues had been causing some difficulties, mainly around the use of his front, or non-bowling, arm, getting through the crease better and getting more of his body behind the ball at the point of delivery.

''I've got a little more energy in my run-up," he said.

''I've played around with a short and long run-up in the last few years but I've gone back to the long run-up because I felt I got better rhythm and momentum to the crease. All those little things, hopefully, add up to improvements in the bowling."

New Zealand will be hoping so. With seam bowling spearhead Tim Southee missing through injury, they will need all hands to the fast-medium pump.

Franklin has done the business in South Africa before. A late-career return to form will be a boost for a touring group facing a tall order against the world's best team.

- David Leggat in Cape Town

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