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Laidback Rutherford driven by bet

19:04 Fri Mar 8 2013
AAP
Hamish Rutherford produced one of the great New Zealand Test cricket debut performances with his innings of 171 against England (Getty)
Hamish Rutherford produced one of the great New Zealand Test cricket debut performances with his innings of 171 against England (Getty)

The cost of buying dinner for 11 grown men drove New Zealand opening batsman Hamish Rutherford to score big in one of the great debut Test cricket performances in Dunedin on Friday.

Rutherford brightened a cold gloomy day at his University Oval home ground with a remarkable 171 on the third day of the first Test against England.

The 23-year-old says he never felt pressure to perform after his promotion in place of the injured Martin Guptill.

Keeping things simple stopped his mind from straying from the task at hand, although there was one exception, when he entered the nervous 90s.

"I've had a couple of 90s this year in first class cricket and there was an Otago bet that if I got another 90 I had to buy everyone dinner. That was in the back of my mind."

Rutherford's laidback approach reflects a new-found attitude to cricket which was sparked by his axing from the Otago side 12 months ago.

He gained work in a coffee shop for several months and varied his interests.

"I started to get more life enjoyment through playing cricket as opposed to looking at it from a work point of view.

"Cricket is not a be-all-and-end-all. We're not saving babies at the end of the day."

His innings is the seventh best ever by a Test debutant and ranks second on three other notable lists for players in their first Test.

Mathew Sinclair still has the highest score for New Zealand (214 against the West Indies), South African Jacques Rudolph the highest for a left-hander (222 not out against Bangladesh) and Brendon Kuruppu the highest for an opening batsman (201 not out against New Zealand).

Rutherford has bolted out of the shadow of his father and former New Zealand Test captain Ken Rutherford who scored 12 runs from his first seven innings on an ill-fated tour of the West Indies in 1985.

It took Rutherford senior 16 Test innings to reach the total his son achieved in a memorable six hours at the crease.