Cricket: New role for Martin

Chris Martin. Photo by Gerard O'Brien
Chris Martin. Photo by Gerard O'Brien
The sight of New Zealand's senior seam bowler Chris Martin being overlooked for first use of the new ball in the first test at Cape Town seemed symbolic.

Ever since his test debut at Bloemfontein in 2000, Martin has invariably been one of the bowlers to open opposing innings. Not so at Cape Town last week. Then it was given to the men of the future, Doug Bracewell and Trent Boult, and with it came a sense of the young bucks usurping the old pro.

The sight of Martin marking out his runup for the 11th over of South Africa's only innings, then again bowling overs 72, 74, 76, 78 and 80 before being replaced for the arrival of the second new ball jarred, if only because it was so rare a sight.

Martin, who was overlooked for four of New Zealand's previous five tests in West Indies, India and Sri Lanka, and probably owed his inclusion at Cape Town to Tim Southee's hand injury, seems to have taken no offence to the changed role.

"It's definitely a change in mindset," he said.

"But the way Trent bowls inswingers and Dougie bowls outswingers I think they wanted to complement each other from different ends.

"Trent has earned that new ball over the last three months. Coming in first change I suppose I'm adding that little bit of experience and continuity with that line and length approach."

Martin acknowledged that he's not"putting it past the nose as often as I'd like".

"It's a different challenge. You've got to be a little bit more wily when you get older.

"You've got to deal with what you have and your skills. If you land the ball in the right areas for long enough - as we saw with (South African seamer) Vernon Philander - you don't need to be bowling helluva quick. Just with a little bit of guile and get the ball to do a little bit and you're in."

Martin's notable record South Africa probably ensured he got the third seam spot at Cape Town ahead of left armer Neil Wagner. His improvement as that South African innings wore on may also keep his nose in front for the second test at Port Elizabeth, starting on Friday.

"Certain styles of bowling suit certain types of players and a lot of these guys are front foot press-type guys, and with me bringing the ball back into the stumps they feel they have to play me more.

"There's a lot of ways to get into a guy's head and I suppose by getting him out often enough times that's the way to do it properly.

"I don't think I've lifted another level (against South Africa). I just think I've got confidence against these guys."

The question of when to call time is one that's often been asked of Martin in recent seasons. He doesn't particularly enjoy the topic. But like a national election, you know it's coming, it's just a question of exactly when.

"You've always got to look forward to how I want to exit the game, which is playing a test and walking off," he said.

"You've got to earn that right and play well and get that opportunity to have that little bit of romance that you always crave."

That said, Martin said it's not the"be all and end all".

Everyone in the squad, including the five fast-medium contenders, is striving to play in Port Elizabeth, wants to play against the world's best test side and"I don't think the challenge gets any better".

- By David Leggat of The New Zealand Herald in Port Elizabeth

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