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Determined O'Brien Bounces Back

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Determined O'Brien Bounces Back

By Chris Barclay of NZPA

Colombo, Aug 12 NZPA - India's stylists and an amateur slogger from Scotland via Zimbabwe conspired to bring Iain O'Brien's fleeting career as an international limited overs cricketer to a halt.

Yet the resilient right-arm pace bowler, who was virtually banished from the Twenty20 world championships once Ryan Watson tonked a quartet of boundaries at The Oval, still borders on the indispensable when New Zealand revert to test mode.

O'Brien's erratic six deliveries were cringe worthy as they unfolded, and again when they were reviewed.

One of the more enduring images of a warts-and-all documentary tracing New Zealand's underwhelming campaign in England depicted O'Brien's mumbled explanation and apology at a post-match team debrief.

Cowering and contrite that overcast London afternoon in June, O'Brien is now striding with a spring in his step in the Sri Lankan capital as he contemplates his 18th test cap -- and 12th of a possible 13 since missing the series opener against England at Lord's last June.

An economy rate of 7.18 runs per over against a ruthless Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and the like last summer suggested that after 10 one day internationals, O'Brien was better equipped to the purist's version of the game.

Watson's long handle simply settled the issue.

O'Brien remains very much in captain Daniel Vettori's plans ahead of a daunting two-test series against a Sri Lankan side buoyed by their recent 2-0 defeat of Pakistan.

O'Brien practically has a lock one of the two available places for a genuine seamer in Galle next Tuesday.

Barring a break down or melt down amid the heat and humidity at the Nondescripts Cricket Club over the next three days, he will share the new ball with Chris Martin.

Recent history suggests O'Brien, who turns 33 on Friday, is capable of continuing his role as New Zealand's unfashionable and unheralded workhorse -- the toiler who won't quibble about pounding into the breeze at the Basin Reserve.

Daryl Tuffey might have made an encouraging return from more than two years in the international wilderness when New Zealand opened their tour against a local development side here last weekend, but O'Brien's willingness to embrace unsavory assignments continues to stand him in good stead.

"Iain's done a good job for us for a long time," said Vettori, before the second and final warm-up match against a local selection starting today.

O'Brien's 52 test wickets at 31.94 are hardly Shane Bond-esque figures, but the Wellingtonian is comfortable with his lot whether it be a containment role at the Basin, or an exhausting support act on an unresponsive pitch on the subcontinent.

"I don't see it as a thankless task," he said.

"It's playing test cricket. I'd rather be bowling into the wind than sitting in the stand having a few beers.

"Sometimes you take a few wickets .... sometimes the thanks is a pat on the back when you're walking up the stairs to the changing room at the end of a session."

Whichever way the kudos is delivered on this tour, O'Brien can still reflect positively on his recovery since that Twenty20 torment.

For the first time he secured an English county contract and paid his dues to Leicestershire by topping their wicket haul in the four-day championship -- 19 in five matches at 22.63 before he returned to international duty.

"I hit some pretty good numbers over there. And most of the tracks were pretty flat and slow, probably similar to what we'll get here."

O'Brien hasn't yet played Sri Lanka but he toured here with New Zealand A three years ago so has an inkling of what to expect -- and how to handle the heat.

"Sometimes it'll be foot down, other times I'll work with Dan and Jeets (spinner Jeetan Patel) and contain," he said.

"The responsibility is to make sure you can still bowl in that third session.

"Obviously you've got to bowl well, but it's the other bits and pieces you do, making sure you're in the right position in the field so you can take on lots of water."


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