Brendon McCullum set to move down the order
New Zealand cricket captain Brendon McCullum (file pic)
New Zealand cricket captain Brendon McCullum looks set to move down the batting order for the home Test series against England.
McCullum opened in both of the heavy defeats to South Africa in the just-completed two-match series, finishing with an average of 20.5 in his four innings.
He had originally been targeted for the No.4 spot in place of former skipper Ross Taylor, who made himself unavailable for the tour.
However, the recalled Peter Fulton, who opened the batting in the build-up fixture against a South Africa XI and was designated to do the job in the Tests, fell victim to a leg injury.
Coach Mike Hesson says that had Fulton been available, McCullum would have given solidity to the New Zealand middle order.
"I don't think Brendon's game suits blunting an attack, which is what we really needed in this series," he said.
"He applied himself for 240 balls against a top side at the top, but I don't think that's the role that he's going to play best for this team."
Ironically, McCullum has a marginally higher average of 35.77 in his 16 Tests as an opener, compared with his 35.12 for all his 72 matches.
His highest score of 225 against India in Hyderabad in 2010 also came in that role.
England's tour begins with three Twenty20 and three one-day internationals in February, followed by three Tests in March.
With the Proteas rolling the Black Caps by an innings in both Tests, neither of which lasted beyond the fourth morning, Hesson hinted at personnel changes against England.
He said it was a balancing act between giving confidence to players who were applying themselves, "because if we keep chopping and changing, we'll end up going around in circles, which has been an issue for a long time".
But performance also had to be judged.
"So there could be changes and there will a number of first-class cricketers back in New Zealand treating the next three or four matches as a great opportunity," Hesson said.
The Black Caps complete their tour of South Africa with three ODIs, the first in Paarl on Saturday.