Home SPORTS Tom Bruce praises ‘fearless’ New Zealand A after Australia success

Tom Bruce praises ‘fearless’ New Zealand A after Australia success

Tom Bruce, the New Zealand A captain, lauded his team’s “relentless and fearless” style of cricket after that secured a 2-0 win over Australia A in the four-day series.

The visitors won the opening match in Brisbane by 225 runs, despite being 79 for 7 and bowled out for 147 on the first day, then claimed the pink-ball encounter in Mackay by 68 runs after Bruce’s unbeaten century at set up the fourth innings in a game where they lost wicketkeeper Mitch Hay to a fractured wrist after the opening day.

This success follows the 1-0 win in the corresponding series staged in New Zealand during April, although Bruce believed the Australians dominated in those two matches staged in Lincoln and he said it was a motivation to perform better on this tour.

“I look at the Lincoln series, yes we won 1-0 but I think we were outplayed on seven out of eight days,” Bruce told ESPNcricinfo. “We were able to chase down a big total, so credit for doing that, but we were probably behind the eight-ball throughout.

“It was a bit of a motivation for a lot of the guys coming here, we knew it was going to be tough and we thought we hadn’t put our best foot forward in Lincoln. We wanted to turn the tide and give ourselves a chance to win a series.”

“The most pleasing thing has been the way we’ve gone about our cricket. We’ve been pretty aggressive, pretty fearless, particularly after that day one at Allan Border [Field] where we certainly turned it around and showed a lot of character.

“That [first game] could have gone one of two ways; you could fall over and lose that game after the first innings and then the tour might be different, but there was lot of character in the dressing and a lot of belief that we could turn it around. From that perspective it’s more pleasing that we’ve just played an aggressive, relentless style of cricket.

Bruce topped the New Zealand A scoring with 221 runs in the two matches, while other standout contributions came from Scott Kuggeleijn, who struck an 85-ball hundred in Brisbane and claimed 13 wickets overall, along with Sean Solia who made 198 runs opening the batting and claimed nine wickets at 12.55.

“[Sean] plays a really tough role and does it for his Auckland side as well,” Bruce said. “He was better than a fourth seamer here…there have been times [for Auckland] when he’s opened the batting and bowling in four-day cricket. He’s cool, calm and collected. Nothing really fazes him. I know he would have loved to have ticked off a hundred in that first game, but his performances can’t be underestimated and he’s only getting better.”

Another player to catch the eye was tall 22-year-old pace bowler William O’Rourke who had featured once in Lincoln earlier in the series and came into the side for the day-night match in Mackay. It was just his 13th first-class outing, but he troubled the Australia A batters with his bounce, twice getting captain Nathan McSweeney caught in the slips.

“He’s still young, only been around a couple of years, and there’s so much growth,” Bruce said. “Thought he was outstanding. He put in a few spells that were pretty menacing and looked very uncomfortable to bat against. Looking at it from the slip cordon, you knew how good it was. He’s certainly a kid with a bright future so long as he stays fit. He’s a big, tall lad, extracts a lot of bounce and has this uncanny ability to swing the ball away but also nip it back in.”

Bruce himself is one of the players who has had a taste of international cricket, playing the most recent of his 17 T20Is in early 2020. His century in Mackay was the ninth of his first-class career and took him over 5000 runs at an average nudging 50, but he remains realistic about his chances of returning to the top level.

“The ambition is always there,” he said. “As batters you a constantly learning and growing. I probably was thrust in when I was quite young and didn’t know my game as well, and it was T20, completely different to what I’m performing well at now which is red-ball cricket.

“We are in a pretty good era of Blackcaps as well, there’s a lot of depth, probably as good as ever, certainly since I’ve been playing. Even though I’m scoring runs there’s probably guys ahead of me in the pecking order. There’s always hope but it’s not at the forefront of my mind when you know there are a load of other players stacked around you and at a similar age.”

The tour of Australia concludes with three one-day matches, the first in Mackay on Sunday followed by two in Brisbane.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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