Wicket-keepers prove value of batting skills

PTI | ByJohn Mehaffey (Reuters), London
May 24, 2004 01:00 AM IST

Rival keepers McCullum and Jones presented a powerful argument on Saturday for the value of stumpers with batting strength.

Rival wicket-keepers Brendon McCullum and Geraint Jones presented a powerful argument on Saturday for the value of stumpers with genuine batting credentials.

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McCullum, who succeeded Robbie Hart in the New Zealand team, scored an unbeaten 72 at number three on Saturday to keep the Kiwis afloat in the first Test against England at Lord's.

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His combative innings followed a valuable knock by Jones, who contributed 46 to a seventh-wicket partnership of 105 with Andy Flintoff in England's first innings 441. With McCullum also making the highest score of his fledgling Test career, New Zealand were 134 for one at the close of play.

Both players progressed to their national teams because of their batting ability. After replacing Hart, McCullum scored two 50s in the drawn three-Test series against South Africa for an average of 36.75 while Jones, succeeding Chris Read, scored 38 and 10 not out in the fourth Test against West Indies in Antigua.

On Saturday McCullum demonstrated the versatility and depth of the New Zealand batting order by stepping up to first drop after Nathan Astle was indisposed with influenza and performing as if he had been playing international cricket for 10 years.

Asked how he felt about batting so soon after New Zealand had spent a lengthy time in the field, McCullum replied: "That's what we train for. If you are going to be an international wicket-keeper you are going to spend a fair amount of time in the field as well.

"I am realistic. That's what I want to do and I'm really enjoying it. I'd rather be on the park than off it."


The Otago keeper said he had been a bit nervous about the thought of batting number three in a Test at Lord's but had been reassured by coach John Bracewell.

"He said 'play the way you play and I'll see you at the end of the day'."

Jones, born in Papua New Guinea of Welsh parents and brought up in Australia, received his chance in the fourth and final Test against West Indies in the Caribbean this year.

Although Read had kept wicket better than any Englishman since Alan Knott and Bob Taylor more than 20 years ago, his inability to get runs finally told and Jones was given the chance to cement his place in the national side.

Taylor was felt in some quarters to be Knott's equal as a wicket-keeper but the Kent man was an automatic choice for most of the 1970s because of his superior batting. When Knott went to Kerry Packer's rebel World Series, Tayor took over as England keeper but was again overlooked in favour of his friend and rival for the final Tests of the memorable 1981 Ashes series.

Jones is now also a man of Kent, following Knott, Godfrey Evans and Les Ames into the England side. On Saturday's performance he may enjoy an equally distinguished career.

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