Neesham to open against Proteas

Captain Brendon McCullum has confirmed all-rounder Jimmy Neesham will open the batting alongside the experienced Martin Guptill, come New Zealand’s opening ODI against South Africa at the Bay Oval this week.

The talented Tom Latham and wicketkeeper-batsman Luke Ronchi were the other options, but Neesham has emerged as the preferred choice for the series opener in Mount Maunganui

“Neesham will get an opportunity at the top of the order. He spent about three hours batting in the nets so he should be ready. He is an exciting player and it’s not an easy role that, especially against a team like South Africa with their quick bowling options,” said McCullum.

“I think he has got something a little bit special. Until you put people in those positions you’re not 100 percent sure how they’re going to respond. For me it’s about how he goes about constructing his innings.

“If we can get that destructive kind of player at the top, playing with some freedom, then that goes a long way in assisting us with the rest of our line-up.”

The participation of fast bowler Tim Southee, however, remained in the balance 24 hours before the start. Southee, who was nursing a shoulder injury – has been named in the squad – but might not return to the XI yet.

“If Tim is not at full capacity then he won’t play the first one, but he’ll certainly be available to play two and three and should be firing for it by then,” coach Mike Hesson told the New Zealand Herald.

“He’s strong and fit and he recovers quickly. So this time of year it’s not an opportunity to push guys too hard too soon.”