Two-Metre Peter has risen to his full height at last. After years when it seemed that his batting career might remain unfulfilled he suddenly emerged as a marauding avenger laying waste to all before him.
To be at Eden Park in Auckland last March was to see a cricketer transformed. Peter Fulton had been short of the necessary in his first coming as a New Zealand batsman but now here he was, plundering the England attack with the zeal of someone making up for lost time, recognising that this was where he belonged.
He made twin hundreds when in 19 previous innings his top score had been 75. A painstaking 136 in the first innings was followed by a rampant 110 in the second, in which the first 50 took 120 balls, the second 52. He reached his century with his fifth six.
Now Fulton is preparing to become one of the eight members of the New Zealand team to make their first appearance in a Test match at Lord's. At the age of 34, one stalled international career behind him, he is the most unlikely of the octet. He had never dared to expect this.
"It was definitely improbable," he said, standing in Coronation Gardens behind the Lord's Pavilion and looking perfectly at home. "In New Zealand, because we don't have the same depth of players, you're never – no matter who you are – completely out of the picture. I always wanted to play for New Zealand again. But if it didn't happen, I guess I'd come to terms with that, and that would have been OK.
"Because I'd done well in one-day cricket against some of the best teams in the world, I knew that I was good enough. But just because you know you're good enough to do something, that doesn't mean it's necessarily going to happen for you."
Fulton has always been easily recognisable as a batsman simply because of his height. It remains predominantly an occupation for short men (though not as short as they used to be). In modern times only the late Tony Greig would have been a match. But for long enough it was as if it would be the only thing that would mark Fulton out.
He was brought up on the family farm in Canterbury on South Island, pillars of the local cricketing community. After doing the hard yards in club and provincial cricket, where he built a reputation as a belligerent attacking player, he made the Test team shortly after his 27th birthday.
Rarely did he remotely display the form or the style that got him there. It might just have been that he was not quite up to it. Five years ago he was on the Kiwis' tour of England and "played about five days of cricket in the two months here, so it was a pretty long and frustrating trip".
He had been scheduled to play in the final match at Trent Bridge but on the morning of the match the wicketkeeper, Brendon McCullum, hurt his back. Although he was still able to bat, the team needed another wicketkeeper. Ten minutes before the toss Fulton was told he was dropped before starting and suspected the opportunity of playing a Test in England, never mind at Lord's, had gone.
Three years after being discarded completely he was recalled in the winter partly because of injury to one of the resident opening batsmen, Martin Guptill, partly because the team's batting had been severely disrupted by South Africa's pace in January.
"I've put a lot less pressure on myself," he said. "There's always going to be external pressure from other people and that sort of thing, but as far as putting pressure on myself, I'm just trying to make the most of the opportunity. But also you've got to do it once to know you can actually do it. You've got to believe in yourself."
Any conversation with Fulton involves mention of the height. Tall batsmen are still rare enough to disrupt bowlers, as Fulton demonstrated so eminently in Auckland
"Anyone who is tall will say that the taller you are the longer levers you have," he said. "Balance is important, the one thing I'm always conscious of working on. It has its advantages at times but any batsman would say they want to be as light on their feet or as nimble as they can. Whether it would be easier for me if I wasn't as tall I'm not sure. A lot of the world's best have been shorter so maybe there is something in that."
The cosy nickname was bestowed when he first played for Canterbury. It turns out to be journalistic licence. Two-Metre Peter has, or rather those who use the term have, been living a lie. He is only 1.98m (6ft 6in). But in Auckland in March as far as England were concerned he was the tallest man on the planet.Reuse content