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Martin looking to leave on his terms

Published: 6:35AM Wednesday January 09, 2013 Source: Fairfax

Ideally, New Zealand's third-highest Test wicket-taker would go out on his terms, a standing ovation and a final salute with the ball.

That day is fast approaching for Chris Martin, but the question nagging away is if he'll actually get the chance to receive the warm reception he deserves, or announce his retirement via a press release, do a few interviews then ride off into the sunset.

You rarely depart a chat with Martin without some kind of fascinating insight, and on this tour of South Africa he's doing plenty of thinking.

Firstly, will he be retained for Friday's second Test, then can he rediscover the magic to push for selection in the big home series against England in March, when Tim Southee should be available again.

He appears likely to be continue in Port Elizabeth, although Neil Wagner is challenging hard. If so, the scene of Martin's second Test in 2013 will be pivotal to his home summer.

"You've always got to look forward to how I want to exit the game which is playing a Test and walking off. You've got to earn that right and you've got to play well and get that opportunity to have that little bit of romance that you always crave," Martin said.

"But I don't think it's the be-all and end all. The next Test is part of a series and another opportunity to do well against the No 1 side in the world so everyone in this outfit is striving to get in that team and make the best of that situation. I don't think the challenge gets any better."

Martin, who turned 38 last month, watched New Zealand's previous three Tests in India and Sri Lanka as Southee, Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell became the dynamic Test trio.

They won a Test by 167 runs in Colombo and looked set to continue here until Southee's thumb injury.

Martin was a key sideline mentor, alongside bowling coach Shane Bond who's six months younger. He described himself as a "security blanket" for the team, offering experience and being a ready made replacement if anyone fell over.

So he got the call-up again, but felt rusty on the first day in Cape Town on the back of very little Plunket Shield bowling thanks to the Sri Lanka tour. He warmed to his task on day two and his figures were a respectable 3-63 in South Africa's only innings, of 347-8 declared.

"I'm definitely getting there. Overall this is probably my hardest season to deal with in a lot of ways with the lack of cricket. When you get given the opportunity and you're not fully in cricket, even though you're 38 there's still an anxiety there to perform well and it definitely took me an afternoon or so to get back into the rhythm of Test cricket and figure out it's not an insular game it's about what you're giving to the opposition. Once I got into that I started competing a bit more, I started to relax and enjoy myself."

Even if it wasn't in Martin's familiar role with the new ball.

He was first change behind Boult and Bracewell, then again when the second new ball was unwrapped, it wasn't thrown to Martin. He was relaxed about the change, that Boult and Bracewell offered an inswing and outswing combination and he was happy as the experienced foil.

"It's a bit of a different way for me to bowl because obviously I'm 38 and not putting it past the nose as often as I'd like. The role that I performed in that game was not overly aggressive but definitely putting the balls in the right areas and trying to take poles that way."

South Africa have been favourite opponents of Martin's since he debuted in Bloemfontein in 2000. In 14 Tests against the Proteas he has 55 wickets at 26.72, and captain Graeme Smith (eight times) and Jacques Kallis (six) are his most-dismissed batsmen. His overall numbers from 71 Tests are 233 wickets at 33.81, third behind Richard Hadlee and Daniel Vettori.

Martin's itching for another crack at the South Africans this Friday.

"Certain styles of bowling suit certain types of players and a lot of these guys are front foot press type guys and with me bringing the ball back into the stumps they feel they have to play me a lot more. There's a lot of ways to get into a guy's head and I suppose by getting him out enough times that's the way to do it properly.

"Over the years there's been a certain amount of respect shown to the way that I operate out in the middle. I don't think I lifted another level, I just think I've got that confidence against these guys."