Blackcaps vs Sri Lanka: Capital shift boosts Jimmy Neesham's resurgence

Returning Blackcap Jimmy Neesham is crediting a shift to the capital for his career resurgence.

The 28-year-old spent close to two years in the international wilderness, after the emergence of Colin de Grandhomme as New Zealand's premier all-rounder.

Not content with watching from the sidelines, Neesham shifted from Otago to Wellington at the start of the season, with outstanding results.

After starring for the Firebirds - with both bat and ball - during their Ford Trophy triumph, Neesham earned a recall to the national side for the current ODI series with Sri Lanka, with the selectors opting to rest an overworked de Grandhomme.

The all-rounder rewarded that favour with a tremendous display in the opening match in Tauranga on Thursday, smashing 47 from 13 balls and taking 3/38 with the ball.

Neesham's batting has never been the issue when wearing the Blackcaps shirt. Through 22 tests, he averages 33.76 with two centuries and his ODO stats are equally impressive. Through 42 matches, he has passed 50 four times, averaging 28.60 with a strike rate of 97.

Neesham scored 45 from 13 balls.
Neesham scored 45 from 13 balls. Photo credit: Photosport

Realising he needed to focus his efforts at the bowling crease, Neesham turned to his provincial skipper for help and the results have been exceptional.

"Bowling has been the main focus for me since I was dropped from the side a few years back," Neesham said on Friday.

"The move to Wellington has really helped with that - Hamish Bennett has been pretty influential in the improvement.

"I train now as a front-line bowler and just get to the batting when I can. For me, at the bowling crease now, it's about staying as loose as possible.

"I know I have the ability to bowl around that 140km mark, but it's about remaining consistent."

Neesham often rushed the Sri Lankan batsman during Thursday night's 45-run win, his wickets proving vital, removing set openers Niroshan Dickwella (76) and Danushka Gunathilaka (43).

But despite a brilliant all-around performance, Neesham is more focused on appreciating his time back in the Blackcaps, rather than putting too much pressure on himself to perform.

"I wasn't really concerned with the runs and the wickets," he said. "It was more about trying to enjoy being part of the team again.

"The lads have been very welcoming and yesterday was a lot of fun.

As for his near world-record batting performance, Neesham admits he almost fluked it.

With four sixes from the first four balls of the penultimate over, Neesham was two big hits away from equalling South African Herschelle Gibbs, who struck six sixes in six balls off Dutch bowler Daan van Bunge during the 2007 Cricket World Cup.

It wasn't to be, although Neesham did deposit Perera for six off the final ball.

"I had three of the worst net sessions of my life leading up to the game, so I went out there without too much expectation, and decided to go out there and swing at a few. Some days it comes off, some days it doesn't.

"Yesterday was a good day."

The second game of the series is also at Mount Maunganui's Bay Oval on Saturday.