Major changes to batting lineup

The selection of Jamie How and Craig Cumming indicates that New Zealand’s experimentation with middle order players in opening positions has come to an end, an experiment that coach John Bracewell has admitted was a mistake.

In their series defeat in South Africa earlier in the year New Zealand used Peter Fulton and Hamish Marshall as openers, two players who had no experience in such a position and who struggled against the new ball partnership of Makhaya Ntini and Dale Steyn.

Bracewell has acknowledged that it was a mistake and has reverted to two specialist openers for the upcoming two-test series against Sri Lanka. The recall comes as a minor surprise to Cumming, whose test prospects looked fairly gloomy after being discarded and then falling behind not only other openers in How and Papps but also the converted middle order players in the selectors’ minds.

Also surprised by his recall is Mathew Sinclair, who was last year considering abandoning New Zealand Cricket and making a living playing professionally in South Africa. His dominant domestic form throughout last season and so far this season has been too good for the selectors to ignore however and he has regained his place in favour of the likes of Lou Vincent, Marshall and Fulton. The latter three could be forgiven for feeling aggrieved with their omission from the team, having been moved around the order and therefore being unable to feel comfortable or settled in a position in the middle order.

Marshall in particular must be frustrated in that after being treated with patience by the selectors throughout a prolonged form slump he has been dumped after seemingly finally finding some form, as shown by an impressive 153 in a substantial run-chase for the Northern Knights over the weekend.

He will be forced to watch on television as New Zealand takes on Sri Lanka in the first Test in Christchurch, starting on Thursday.

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