Brownlie adds a bit of Aussie steel
Digging through the wreckage of the first cricket test, in Brisbane, it wasn’t easy to find something for a New Zealander to feel good about.
The best I can do is focus on Dean Brownlie, and he’s Australian anyway.
Brownlie is a famous name in New Zealand sport. In the 1920s three Brownlie brothers from Hawke’s Bay – Maurice, Cyril and Laurence – were All Blacks. Maurice was perhaps the finest forward in the world at that time.
The new Mr Brownlie is from north of Perth. He played age cricket for Western Australia and is still a big Aussie Rules fan.
When it became obvious his cricket was going nowhere in Australia, he used the fact that his father, Jim, was born in Christchurch, to have a crack at cricket in New Zealand.
That was in 2009. Two years later he’s cementing a place in the New Zealand side.
Brownlie had scored just two first- class centuries when he was whistled into the New Zealand team for the test against Zimbabwe a few weeks ago. It was only his 15th firstclass match.
It seemed like a return to the bad old days of New Zealand selecting, when a fighting Plunket Shield half- century could earn a batsman a test spot.
However, Brownlie fitted in immediately.
He has a compact game and rarely looks ruffled. That’s a prequisite for a New Zealand No 6 batsman because there’s a fair bet he’ll be at the crease all too soon, trying to perform another rescue act – as Brownlie had to in both innings in Brisbane.
After beginning his test career with 63 against Zimbabwe, Brownlie raised his level against Australia, batting more than four hours in the first innings for 77 not out and putting on 158 precious runs with Daniel Vettori.
In the second innings, when James Pattinson was wreaking havoc with the New Zealand top order, Brownlie, 27, was as composed as you like and top-scored with 42.
Occasionally New Zealand fields a test player who proves you don’t have to have been a brilliant teenager to succeed at test level.
Ewen Chatfield took nearly all his 263 international wickets after he was 30. Andrew Jones never played test cricket until he was about to turn 28. Bevan Congdon only became a worldclass batsman in his 30s.
Perhaps Brownlie will fit that mould. Let’s hope so. It doesn’t hurt to have a bit of Aussie steel propping up the New Zealand effort.
Incidentally, the New Zealand test side might soon have a very international look to it. Otago left-arm paceman Neil Wagner will soon be qualified for New Zealand. He’s the bloke who took five Wellington wickets in one over last season, and his bowling this season has been impressive.
There are several South Africans prospering in provincial cricket. Some will be ushered into the test side once they’re eligible.
New Zealand has fielded overseas players before. Sam Guillen, Dipak Patel, Grant Elliott and others moved here well into their first- class careers and forced their way into the test side.
But what’s about to happen is another step entirely. Brownlie might be one of four or five foreigners in the same New Zealand team.
Given how some of the New Zealand-born players performed in Brisbane, perhaps that will not be a bad thing.