Cricket: McCullum eyes opportunities in lower order

Brendon McCullum: 'If you can get yourself under way and utilise that power play . . . 30 overs...
Brendon McCullum: 'If you can get yourself under way and utilise that power play . . . 30 overs isn't a bad time to come in.'
Expect to see more of Brendon McCullum taking guard lower down the New Zealand order in future ODIs.

After his match-winning 69 off 61 balls at No 6 against England in Hamilton on Sunday night, New Zealand's wicketkeeper-batsman made it clear a change of roles appeals.

It might not necessarily have him at No 6 on a regular basis - he's batted there just eight times in his 210-game career - but the stage of the innings is the more relevant point.

An adjustment to the fielding rules - wherein only three players can be positioned outside the 30-yard circle during the five-over powerplay, usually taken shortly before the start of the final 10 overs - has taken his eye.

Even in those last 10 overs, the fielding captain has lost the use of one outfielder. The number is now four. That means more wide open spaces and McCullum can see the possibilities.

"Coming in at No 6, at the back end of an innings, if you can get yourself under way and utilise that power play, and with one extra fielder having to be in the ring, 30 overs isn't a bad time to come in," he said.

"That is one of the reasons I've slid down the order."

He also said he wants to give the middle order machinations a decent chance to work; so read that as him not being back at the top of the order in the near future.

"I think we've got to let this trial, the shifting of our experience into the middle order, play out a little bit longer."

McCullum has batted in every position in the ODI order since his debut 11 years ago, bar Nos 10 and 11. He has opened 80 times, been at No 7 41 times, No 8 21 and No 3 16, with a sprinkling of outings elsewhere.

While it might seem vaguely criminal to leave the team's most rapid scorer so low in the order, there is some sense to it. Grant Elliott did well at No 4 in two ODIs in South Africa last month but he's more an accumulator than a smash-and-grab artist, which McCullum, the world's No 1-ranked T20 batsman, is.

McCullum felt Elliott, who made a run-a-ball 22, should stay up the order.

"Grant did a fantastic job for us in South Africa at No 4, and we wanted to utilise him as a batsman, rather than shuffle him down to No 6."

Otago opener Hamish Rutherford, who made an encouraging start in the T20s, joins the squad for the second match of the ANZ international series in Napier.

After flaying 24 in 10 balls on one leg to secure the win, Martin Guptill saw a specialist yesterday to have his strained hamstring assessed. The results are due out today.

NZ v England, 2nd ODI, tomorrow, Napier, 2pm.

- David Leggat of the New Zealand Herald


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