Cricket: Guptill refreshed after break

Martin Guptill
Martin Guptill
While New Zealand's test specialists have been playing domestic cricket to gear up for the upcoming two-test series against Sri Lanka, the well-rested Martin Guptill has taken to the nets to face schoolboy bowlers.

Todd Astle, Jeetan Patel, Daniel Flynn, Neil Wagner, Kruger van Wyk and Chris Martin have all played in the Plunket Shield in recent weeks with mixed results, although Flynn's 182 for Northern Districts this week was a highlight.

Bowling all-rounder Doug Bracewell - a regular in all forms of the game for New Zealand - was rested from the limited overs fixtures in Sri Lanka but included for the tests and also turned out for Central Districts in their past two games.

Guptill was a different case, however, and the right-hander, who was recently named New Zealand's Player of the Year for 2011/12 season, was given a complete rest from the game after a heavy diet of cricket over the past 15 months.

On top of taking a brief trip to the South Island to unwind, he managed to squeeze in some practice.

"I also did a bit of training as well, so I seemed to be hitting it alright and hopefully I can take that through into the test matches," Guptill said, although the calibre of bowling he faced could be debated.

"Just a few net bowlers from Auckland Grammar School. I did a bit of training with [former New Zealand assistant coach] Mark O'Donnell. He's in charge of the 1st XI there and he got a few boys down to bowl at me, which was quite good.

"There are a couple of good, young bowlers they've got coming through so the future looks bright in Auckland cricket."

Aside from bullying youngsters in the nets, Guptill said his break - which he said was a "mutual decision" between him and New Zealand Cricket's management - has left him feeling ready for Sri Lanka.

"I've been playing non-stop since I went to England last year and it's quite a high workload. I needed a bit of a break. Two weeks has done me good and I'm feeling refreshed."

Guptill picked a good part of a tour to miss as rain continues to wreak havoc in Sri Lanka.

The only Twenty20 game was washed out, as was the first one-dayer, and the second and third 50-over fixtures were marred by wet weather.

The first test gets underway next Saturday (nov 17) in Galle and Guptill's ongoing battle to convert his starts into test centuries will continue.

In 26 tests, the 26-year-old has passed 50 14 times but has gone on to convert only two into 100s.

"We need test hundreds to be able to win games," Guptill asserted. "And the more test hundreds we get, the closer we are going to get to winning games.

"If our top order can do that in the next couple of test matches and then carry it on through to the South African tests [in January], I think we are going to be going on the right track to get some test wins under the belt."

One man who has no conversion issues at first-class level is Flynn, who heads away to Sri Lanka in glistening form after his mammoth knock for ND this week.

He has 12 first-class hundreds to his name at the healthy average of 37.85, although his test numbers aren't as impressive with only four 50s at an average of 27.81 from 20 outings.

The 27-year-old has been used in the every position from opening to No 7 in his short career, but played his past two tests against India in August at No 5, which is clearly his best position and it seems logical he should be deployed there against Sri Lanka.


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