McKenzie brings his A game to the crease again

Neil McKenzie salutes the Rose Bowl crowd. Picture: Barry Zee
Neil McKenzie salutes the Rose Bowl crowd. Picture: Barry Zee
England's Mason Crane will make his England Test debut when the fifth Ashes Test begins at Sydney Cricket Ground tonight

Root: Hampshire talent will embrace Ashes debut

Have your say

Neil McKenzie underlined his worth to Hampshire with another quality display to help steer the side to t20 finals day.

The former South Africa Test batsman has become the Royals’ version of the A-Team – the man you call upon when you have a problem.

He strode to the crease with two early wickets down and only 26 runs on the board.

But while others hit the panic button, the Royals man is all about staying calm and, more importantly, staying in.

He may not be able to build an armoured tank from tin foil and sticky tape but his vital 56 from just 44 balls was crucial.

And he again proved, in cricketing terms, he’s the king of dealing with a crisis.

McKenzie smiled: ‘Everybody would like to be expansive and play a few shots with the new ball but somebody has got to do the dirty work and have a bit of a thick skin.

‘I’m that man for the time being until I find one of the bigger bats in my cupboard!

‘I’m a nudger. Everybody else is a big hitter.

‘It’s hard work at times but that’s my role. I’ve opened the batting in the past.

‘I don’t mind going in when we’re in a bit of trouble. I enjoy it when it comes off like that.

‘The big thing is that when a side is doing well in any form of the game, they have got a pattern. And we’ve got that pattern here in t20 cricket.

‘I go in at number four and it’s basically about knowing your role.’

Although the 35-year-old modestly suggests that he struggles to clear the boundary, his four fours and two sixes would suggest otherwise.

And he is clearly in a rich vein of form.

After his stunning 237 in a 523-run partnership with Michael Carberry in last week’s Championship match against Yorkshire, he partnered Sean Ervine to a crucial stand yesterday.

McKenzie said: ‘Sean and I really bat well together.

‘It was another good partnership after what went on with Carbs.

‘As weeks go, it’s right up there for me.

‘The weeks seem to fly by in county cricket and you get through games.

‘But when I’m sore and I’m icing my knee the next day, I know I’ve done something for the team.

‘Long may that continue.’

Hampshire return to the Championship this week with a trip to Durham.

Things look bleak in the four-day game with the club rooted to the foot of the division one table.

But the impressive t20 form has given everyone a much-needed lift.

McKenzie added: ‘Everyone is putting 100-per-cent in – everybody is doing their bit.

‘You want results and this goes a long way to easing the pressure.

‘We know we’ve played poorly in the other two forms of the game, but it’s the same as last year.

‘Now we’ve got to finals day, it’s kept the season alive.’