Spit ruled out, but Smith to keep polishing his game

Otago all-rounder Nathan Smith ducks a short-pitched delivery during a training session at the...
Otago all-rounder Nathan Smith ducks a short-pitched delivery during a training session at the McMillan Hockey Centre earlier this week. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
No spit. No worries.

Nathan Smith has cleared plenty of hurdles, so getting the old ball to swing in the Covid era without the help of saliva is just another obstacle he will have to find a way around.

The talented Otago all-rounder had a breakthrough season with the bat last summer.

The right-hander posted his maiden first-class century while featuring in an Otago record seventh-wicket stand with Michael Rippon.

It was one of several telling stands the pair made.

His bowling is coming along nicely, too. He has grown into his action and the right-armer has weaponised his variations with the white ball. He is also a lot more comfortable in his role with the red ball.

And the 22-year-old had his first run for New Zealand A earlier this year, so he is very much a cricketer on the upswing.

Like Otago, he is finding his identity in the first-class game.

The next big challenge is to squeeze more out of the red ball when it is older.

"My batting has gone from strength to strength," Smith said.

"But for me it is about being effective with the older ball in four-day cricket, because I feel like the rest of my game is coming into its own which is nice."

A quick glance at his first-class record reveals a bowling average which is on the high side at 44.08. But it is not a fair reflection of his talent and, when you consider he had his 22nd birthday in July, he has plenty of time to bring it down.

"The average is just a number at the end of the day. It is the role you play on the field, whether you are just being boring and going nowhere while guys like Michael Rae and Duff [Jacob Duffy] are at the other end taking wickets. It is about being able to bowl in partnerships."

Smith, who is studying accounting and management through Massey University, certainly understands the value of partnerships.

He combined with Rippon as the pair put on 190 against Northern Districts at the University of Otago Oval in November.

It eclipsed the previous highest Otago seventh-wicket partnership and Smith posted his maiden first-class century in the process.

"That is obviously something nice to remember. And to share it with Rips as well, who I had quite a few partnerships with last season, was nice.

"We are pretty similar when we bat. We are both pretty energetic and we sort of make it pretty simple for each other."

With South African-born all-rounder Dean Foxcroft stranded in the Republic and unable to return until New Zealand relaxes its border restrictions, Smith will slip up to No 6, where his efforts with the bat will come under more scrutiny.

It is a challenge he plans to embrace and he would like to climb even higher.

"Runs are the currency at the moment. If I keep getting those and help put our team in a good position, then hopefully the rest just sort of comes."

Coach Rob Walter has certainly backed his ability with the bat.


"I stuck my neck out in terms of his batting quality a long time ago and he just reaffirmed that with the hundred he scored last year and with some of the knocks he has played in the shorter formats as well," Walter said.

"He is an outstanding talent. His batting has real, real potential. We need that to continue.

"And for me, international cricket is his end point. All things being equal I don’t see any reason why he does not end up there."

Smith’s efforts last season saw his batting average creep up to a very useful 28.96.

If you can average more than 30 with the bat while bowling as many overs as Smith does, you become a very valuable member of any team.

He will get his first opportunity to continue his progress when the Volts open their Plunket Shield campaign with a match against Auckland at Eden Park Outer Oval beginning on Tuesday.


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