Cricket: Nightmare over - Fuller finds his feet

Otago overseas player James Fuller gets in some fielding practice at the University Oval...
Otago overseas player James Fuller gets in some fielding practice at the University Oval yesterday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
It is always nice when New Zealanders working abroad help each other out.

That was not James Fuller's intention when he inadvertently helped Scott Styris smash a 37-ball century during a County twenty/20 fixture last year.

The Otago import and Gloucestershire professional bowled what is believed to be the most expensive over in the history of twenty/20 cricket when Styris plundered 38 runs from what ended up an eight-ball over during a quarterfinal of the Friends Life T20 tournament in July.

It was a nightmare over for the 22-year-old and one he will probably never live down. The footage was immediately posted on the internet, of course, and has proved popular, with more than 140,000 views.

Watching it, it is hard to imagine how Styris did anything to help Fuller's career.

But the strapping opening bowler believes it was a valuable learning experience.

''It is one of those experiences which push you on so it never happens again,'' he said.

''You have to go back to the drawing board and figure out what went wrong and put into action a plan to make sure you don't repeat it.''

Fuller said he spoke with some statisticians after the game and the general consensus was it was the highest number of runs conceded from one over in a twenty/20 match.

It is a dubious record but things have gone much better for the British passport holder since he linked up with the Otago team last month. He has been instrumental in helping the Volts win six games on the trot with some impressive bowling displays.

It has not always gone to plan, of course. Twenty/20 is a batsman's game, after all, but Fuller bowled a superb penultimate over during the dramatic one-run win against Canterbury in Timaru last month and was the pick of the bowlers in the 13-run win against Auckland in Queenstown on December 31.

While Fuller has honed his craft playing for Gloucestershire in the county system, Otago can claim some of the credit for developing the player.

Fuller was born in Cape Town but moved with his family to New Zealand when he was 2. The family eventually settled in Auckland and Fuller moved to Dunedin to attend the University of Otago. He played for three clubs while he was here - the now defunct Pelichet Bay, Albion and University-Grange.

He was on the cusp of the Otago side and played two first-class games for the province in 2009-10 before shifting to England to take up a three-year contract with Gloucestershire. He has extended the deal by a year and remains committed to chasing his dream of playing international cricket.

That will not be for the Black Caps, though. He hopes to qualify for England and believes his career is best served by playing in the county system.

Fuller has kept in contact with Otago since shifting and approached the association about playing some twenty/20 matches this season. He was in the country anyway, to play club cricket in Auckland and spend some time with his family, and it made sense to get in some serious cricket. He is available only for the twenty/20 campaign, though.

''I don't want to do too much, because it is my off-season and I want to focus on strength and trying to get rid of niggles before next season.''

Otago is two wins, or possibly one win, away from securing a home venue for the final. A win against Wellington in the capital on Friday will go a long way towards achieving that.

Wellington is in second place and opener Jesse Ryder has been in belligerent form. He is the tournament's leading scorer with 417 runs at and average of 59.57 and a strike rate of 177.44.

Fuller and 18-year-old Jacob Duffy have the job of removing the dangerous left-hander before he gets set.

''He is a pretty big hitter. You bowl balls which you think are good ones and he hits them out of the park. It puts you on the back foot and makes you think about other options.

''It is pretty hard to bowl to a guy like him in his sort of form.''

Otago had a comprehensive 82-run win against Wellington at the University Oval last month and the Volts attack managed to limit the damage Ryder could do by bowling wide and full.

Otago has been playing consistent cricket and the camp is riding a wave of confidence, Fuller said.

''I don't think I've ever been involved with a team which has won six games in a row in any format. We've kind of dominated a few teams and we've been put in situations where it looked like we would lose and we've managed to win.

''There is a great feeling at the moment ... and we're all excited about how it is going and where we could go.''

Wellington Cricket is believed to be close to brokering a deal that would see West Indian super-bat Chris Gayle turning out in two T20 games in the capital this weekend, The New Zealand Herald reports.

Gayle is currently plying his trade for the Sydney Thunder and Wellington hopes to get him across for its HRV Cup showdown against Otago on Friday, and Sunday's meeting with Northern Districts.

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