Cricket: Doug Bracewell puts hand up for Black Caps

If they didn’t have enough selection quandaries already, Doug Bracewell has now presented another puzzle for the Black Caps selectors to solve.

Bracewell’s return to international cricket went off without a hitch in the Black Caps’ Twenty20 victory over Sri Lanka at Eden Park, blasting a career-high 44 from 26 balls, before taking 1-19 and claiming two catches in a man of the match display.

It was his first international match in over a year, and the 28-year-old did enough to remain firmly amongst the mob of all-rounders vying for a spot at the ODI World Cup.

Bracewell had displayed his all-round talents in domestic cricket, but he had yet to showcase his batting abilities at the international level, averaging just 13 in tests, 11 in an admittedly small sample of ODI knocks, and before Friday night, held a top score of 21 in Twenty20s.

So, smacking a match-winning 44, after coming to the crease at 55-5, gave him a lot of confidence ahead of a five-match ODI series against India, starting on January 23.

“I hadn’t really shown that ability at the international level which has been frustrating. At times I think I’ve put myself under pressure and tried a little bit too hard and it hasn’t worked out,” said Bracewell.

“I just went back to the basics, I got an opportunity to bat a bit of time, batting with Ross [Taylor] also helped as well. It was nice to get a few away.”

It looked like Bracewell might not get an opportunity when he missed out on selection for all three ODIs against Sri Lanka, with the form of Jimmy Neesham keeping him out of the starting XI. However, Neesham’s hamstring injury gave Bracewell a chance in the one-off T20, which he took in style, and now he belongs with Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Colin de Grandhomme and Corey Anderson in the all-rounder mix for May’s World Cup.

“I didn’t get a chance in the one-dayers, but that’s international cricket,” Bracewell reasoned.

“I was pretty happy just to get back in the mix with the team. It is frustrating when you’re not being picked, but you’re there to do a job when needed.

“I was ready to go, just looking forward to getting a game, and tried not to put myself under too much pressure – just go out and enjoy it. I was pretty stoked to contribute with both the bat and the ball.”

Black Caps stand-in captain Tim Southee was delighted that players returning to the side managed to immediately perform in pressure situations.

“That’s the beauty of having those guys who are able to come in and do a job like that. Obviously Doug’s had a little bit of experience and this level, and it’s not easy when you’ve sat out for a few games to be able to come out and play the way he did.

“To come in and put in a performance like that, as well as someone on his debut in this format, Scott Kuggeleijn (35 off 15 balls), it just shows you the character of the guys and the never die attitude.”

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