Jan 12, 2011

Southee searching for greater consistency

Tim Southee
Tim Southee had his feet up and his fingers crossed today, hoping for a Basin Reserve pitch with signs of life as New Zealand attempt to square the two-test cricket series against Pakistan here.

New Zealand's pace attack were in a well-earned rest mode as they recharge the batteries, but the batsmen were getting a desperately needed work out in the nets ahead of the second test, which starts on Saturday.

The bowlers could not be faulted in the embarrassing 10-wicket defeat in the first test at Hamilton; they toiled on a lifeless Seddon Park surface and bowled Pakistan out for 367, a worthy achievement in tough conditions.

The pitch was more akin to something you would see in Pakistan than a traditional New Zealand wicket, which would hold more pace and bounce, and Southee was hoping for something closer to the norm here on Saturday.

"There obviously wasn't a lot in it for the seam bowlers in Hamilton, but here it's usually a good cricket wicket with a bit of bounce and carry in it," he said.

The 22-year-old from Whangarei was one of the few who could be satisfied with his three days at the office in Hamilton, scoring 56 at No 9 in the first innings and bowling consistently well largely without luck in taking two for 82 from 32 overs in Pakistan's first dig.

New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori was moved to label it Southee's best performance from his 12 tests, and he wasn't going to argue with the skipper despite better returns, such as his career-best five for 55 on debut against England at Napier three years ago, and four-wicket hauls against Australia in Brisbane and Hamilton.

"Personally I probably felt better in the last game, those others were bowler- friendly conditions and I managed to pick up a few wickets. You had to work for your wickets (in Hamilton)."

But there is always room for improvement.

Collectively, the bowlers were disappointed to let a couple of partnerships get away, most notably the fifth-wicket stand of 149 between Misbah-ul-Haq and Asad Shafiq. Southee today talked of the need to keep the foot on the throat.

He knows he has a track record of failing to back up after a good showing and he's desperate to find greater consistency at test level, which is crucial to improving his unflattering record of 31 wickets and 43.16.

"I think in the past I don't have a great record for backing up after a good performance, so hopefully that can turn around," Southee said.

"I'm a big rhythm bowler and when it's feeling good it generally comes out pretty good, so hopefully I can pick up a few more wickets along the way."

It is not just consistency from test to test that Southee is striving for. He feels he has a weakness in that he often comes back for spells and bowls a soft over first up, which something he is working on, along with his batting.

Touted as the next Chris Cairns in some quarters after his stunning 77 not out against England on debut, Southee failed to deliver on his talent with the bat after that, at least until last week.

Batting is just another facet of his game he has been determined to improve, both under previous coach Mark Greatbatch and new coach John Wright.

"I don't want to be sitting here in six or seven years' time and still batting 10 or 11," he said.

"It's something I've been working on but as I said it was only one test. Hopefully I can continue the bit of form I showed.
"It's a work in progress, it's not going to happen overnight."

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