Cricket: Selection axe could wielded

For some in the New Zealand squad who toured Sri Lanka, the afterglow of victory might be tempered by the fact their places are under threat for next month's tour to South Africa.

The squads for the South African tour will be named next week, meaning domestically-based players have little time left to convince selectors of their worth.

It also means incumbents have no time to find some form, although fast bowler Chris Martin will go virtually from the plane to the playing field when he plays the last two days of Auckland's Plunket Shield match against Otago starting on Sunday.

Martin is vulnerable among the 15 who toured Sri Lanka and he's not alone.

Others like Rob Nicol, Kruger van Wyk, Todd Astle and James Franklin will also be nervous about their chances of being selected to face South Africa for various reasons.

Martin, who at 37 is older than bowling coach Shane Bond, has long been a staple of the New Zealand test side during the past few years but was surplus to requirements in Sri Lanka and it appears the young brigade offer more.

Adam Milne is greener than Central Districts' one-day kit but has form on his side after a recent five-wicket haul and decent knock of 97 from No 9 in the Plunket Shield.

Coach Mike Hesson and his selection panel could also summon Wellington's Mark Gillespie, who ripped through the Proteas in the home series last summer.

Gillespie might not have many good years left in him but he's a genuine wicket-taker and could provide a good foil to Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell.

Franklin has seemingly been dropped and recalled more than any player in recent years and doesn't offer enough as a No 6 batsman or seam bowler.

The left-hander has passed 50 only once in his last 21 test innings dating to 2006. The merry-go-round needs to stop.

Central Districts batsman Carl Cachopa has been in career-best form in the past 10 months and would be a strong contender ahead of Franklin given the improvement of his part-time medium pace bowling.

Nicol was in Sri Lanka only as batting cover and, aside from bullying Zimbabwe, isn't up to the international level. Nicol averages seven in his two tests and, if you omit his knocks against Zimbabwe, his one-day average is 24.2.

BJ Watling makes a strong case to take the gloves instead of van Wyk and a pair for the latter in the second test in Sri Lanka came at an awful time given Watling's sparkling form in the one-dayers, when he made 166 runs in three innings at 83 against the same opponents.

Watling will also take the gloves for Northern Districts in their four-day fixture against Canterbury that starts on Sunday.

Peter Fulton's is one name few Black Caps followers expected to hear after he was discarded from the national side in 2009, but the 33-year-old is averaging 72.5 this summer for Canterbury and could bat anywhere from opening to No 6.

Leg-spinner Astle could be a victim of the conditions more than anything as there might not be room in a 15-strong test squad for two spinners given the rapid South African decks the side will encounter.

It could also depend on Daniel Vettori's recovery from injury. If Vettori is fit, he will play - his domestic comeback has been delayed until December 14. He would strengthen the batting which could squeeze out either Astle or Jeetan Patel.


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