Cricket: McClenaghan feeling positive and ready to let rip

Mitchell McClenaghan
Mitchell McClenaghan
When New Zealand arrived home from South Africa last month, Mitchell McClenaghan had every right to feel pretty good about life.

The strongly built fast bowler had fully justified his call up for both limited-overs series. He took four wickets in the three twenty/20s which started the tour, and his four for 20 off 10 overs at Paarl was the standout turn in a 2-1 ODI series win, which provided the other bookend to a trip of which the less said about the middle five-day leg the better.

McClenaghan (26) has pace and bounce and relished his first opportunity with the national side.

Now he gets to mark out his run up in a home international for the first time, on his home turf too. The three hip surgeries he endured in quick succession a few seasons ago would have put off a less determined spirit. Life could be a lot worse for the Auckland left-armer.

''There's always room for improvement,'' he said.

''I want to make my mark on New Zealand cricket. I don't want to be a one-tour wonder.''

The ODI series win put smiles back on faces which spent much of the test leg in South Africa looking like the turkey seeing December roll over on the calendar.

McClenaghan was not needed in the heavy test defeats, which might have been a good miss. That said ...

''I'm not the kind of guy who's going to let myself get down. If I'm coming off a bad series I'd still be in the same frame of mind.

''You can't go into any cricket game with any negative thoughts in your head. Even if you get hit during a game, be positive the next ball. That's not going to change.''

He leads an interesting life. An occasional model and television extra, as well as having a bachelor of commerce degree in marketing and accounting, McClenaghan is a relative rarity in New Zealand cricket, able to push beyond 140kmh.

Right now his pace is good and he feels the ball is ''coming out'' nicely, pronouncing himself ''pretty excited with where things are at''.

He knows more than one plan will be needed against inventive England batsmen and particularly tonight on a ground with distinctive, and peculiar cricket dimensions.

McClenaghan agreed there is scope for both teams to bowl shorter more often than they might normally do to encourage batsmen hitting square to the longer boundaries rather than to the short, straight fences.

''These England guys move around the crease quite a bit so it's about making sure I've got strong plans, and having two or three plans so I've got back-ups.

''A lot of the guys are feeling pretty confident about areas we can bowl to them, but it's going to be quite tough on Eden Park. You've got to be smart.''

And McClenaghan has learnt the margins for error in T20 are minute.

''In one-day cricket you can get away with a bit more. In T20 you can bowl incredibly well and still go for 40.

''It's really about limiting your mistakes and executing your plan. If you bowl a ball well, it's out of your control if they hit a good shot.''

New Zealand lost Grant Elliott and Ian Butler from its squad of 13 yesterday due to minor injuries, but both should be fit for Hamilton on Tuesday. Allrounder Jimmy Neesham has been called into the reduced 12.

Captain Brendon McCullum confirmed Hamish Rutherford will open on debut with Martin Guptill, and has been given free rein to go hard at the new ball. Ross Taylor will be at No 4 on his return, and both brother Nathan and left-armer Ronnie Hira will play tonight. Short boundaries do not necessarily mitigate against playing both spinners, he said.

''I think spin's actually done pretty well here and that's mainly because you've still got two larger boundaries square.

''There are still get-out options for spinners. In New Zealand, opposition teams can sometimes look to attack those spinners too much because of the short boundaries and you get opportunities to take wickets.''

He believes New Zealand's limited-overs success in South Africa ''should be the norm''.

''That's the expectation I have of this group, that we win this T20 and one-day series.''

New Zealand v England
Eden Park, 7pm tonight
New Zealand (from): Brendon McCullum (c), Martin Guptill, Hamish Rutherford, Ross Taylor, James Franklin, Colin Munro, Andrew Ellis, Nathan McCullum, Jimmy Neesham, Ronnie Hira, Trent Boult, Mitchell McClenaghan.

England (from): Stuart Broad (c), Michael Lumb, Alex Hales, Luke Wright, Eion Morgan, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Joe Root, Samit Patel, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes, Steven Finn, Jade Dernbach, James Harris.

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