Underrated but extremely useful.
Tom Latham, Jeet Raval, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls and Kane Williamson are back in the hut in the blink of an eye. New Zealand are struggling. They can barely crawl. James Anderson and Stuart Broad are in one of their upbeat moods.
The scorecard reads a dismal 36/5.
There is a hushed silence around Hagley Oval. They realise the implications of this batting collapse. Losing the Test would mean they will have to share the series with England. After the crushing innings victory at Auckland, that was the last thing New Zealand needed.
BJ Watling, known for his ability to resist the flow and stonewall, is joined by Colin de Grandhomme in the middle. The burly all-rounder isn’t one you would ideally want to bank on to lift the team from an abyss. Let’s face it, de Grandhomme is a good hitter, owns the second fastest Test hundred by a Kiwi and can boost a 300 on the board to 450 but he isn’t your everyday firefighter.
But cricket isn’t really about reputation, is it? It never was. de Grandhomme once again underlined this with a rip-roaring counterattack that not only pushed England away but also gave the Kiwis a hope of salvaging the Test.
He walked in and wasted no time in digging into Mark Wood, smashing him for three fours in one over. From there, it was an exhibition as de Grandhomme pushed Watling to the background in a scathing attack on England.
Runs came thick and fast and in no time the all-rounder had smashed a half-century, his third in Tests.
Counter-attacking is an art. We saw AB de Villiers and Hardik Pandya employ it with immense success in the closely fought India – South Africa series. When things are going awry, a batsman who can play his shots and transfer pressure back onto the bowlers is worth his weight in gold.
In New Zealand, they say, ‘blast it like Baz’. The former Black Caps skipper is a crowd favourite and anyone who could take over from him and make valuable, quick runs from down the order is considered special. At 31, de Grandhomme isn’t exactly a young replacement, but his composure and ability to play the ball and not the bowler makes him a key player.
“There wasn’t any instructions: just do what I do. The boys did the hard work and made it a lot easier for me towards the back end. It helps hitting a couple of boundaries early. But they were there to go so I had to put them away,” he had said after his 71 ball ton against Windies.
That’s just the way de Grandhomme plays. His value isn’t restricted to just the bat but his bowling, despite standing out in the fag end of England’s innings, needs work.
Military medium at best, the all-rounder relies on swing through the air to reap rewards. His debut, where he had Pakistan dancing to his tunes at the very same ground says a lot about de Grandhomme the bowler.
The 6/41 was outstanding but it’s worth noting that the only time he got more than three wickets since then was at Christchurch yesterday. The pacer will need to add a couple of other skills to his repertoire to survive in the side, but given his ability to alter games with bat and ball, would Kiwis really mind waiting for the right conditions to unleash de Grandhomme?
Day 5 presents an all-new challenge for the Black Caps, one where de Grandhomme’s role could be more important than ever. Several years back, Nathan Astle stunned the English with a belligerent double hundred. With a further 340 to get in 98 overs (provided we get full day’s play), de Grandhomme will be their go-to-man.
Tom Latham and Jeet Raval seemed assured and in no hurry in the last session on day 4. A draw would ideally be more than enough for the Kiwis to scrape through for a series win. But knowing the Black Caps and the influence their former skipper, Brendon McCullum, has had on them, would you put it past the Black Caps to go out there and blast down 340 runs on day 5?
The pitch is still good for batting and the ball has lost its shine. With his muscle power, Colin de Grandhomme will be itching to go out there and take the attack onto the English.
Like his half-century against South Africa and his hundred against West Indies, his strength lies in playing the care-free game. Forgetting the target in mind and taking it back by ball is where he stands out amongst his competitors.
de Grandhomme is no Stokes. He is no Hardik Pandya or Mitchell Marsh either. What he does possess is a special skill to not panic under pressure. If he can get going, even 400 wouldn’t be a stretch for this Kiwi side. All eyes are on de Grandhomme as New Zealand come out on day 5 to seal the series emphatically.