Musings from Beyond the Boundary – 10 September

Musings from beyond the boundary – cricketing thoughts through the eyes of Trevor Auger, an Auckland Cricket Society and Supporters Club Member.

You might not think so looking outside, and you certainly won’t think so if you step outside, but the cricket season is just about a month away and in six weeks the Plunket Shield competition begins.

Not surprisingly then, there has been a flurry of activity over the past week with the domestic schedules for both the Plunket Shield and Ford Trophy and the Women’s One Day and T20 competitions appearing. Once again there will be plenty of cricket to watch in a representative season that kicks off on 23rd October and doesn’t wind up until 5th April.

At the same time, the itinerary for the New Zealand A team’s tour of India was published, followed a day or so later by the Black Caps’ own Indian tour timetable.  The New Zealand A team play a mix of four day and one day cricket but the top side will be focussed purely on their white ball game, with three ODIs followed by three international T20 matches.

By my count, between 22 October and 10 March, the New Zealand side will play 29 limited over internationals, interrupted only by the two tests against the West Indies in the first half of December. As David Leggat remarked in Saturday’s ‘New Zealand Herald’, “unless you have a true affection for the short form versions, it shapes as a depressing summer for fans of the test game.” I prefer to subscribe to the view that any international cricket is good international cricket.

Plenty to celebrate in the announcement of the New Zealand A team for their Indian sojourn, with five Aucklanders being named: Colin Munro, Jeet Raval, Glenn Phillips, Lockie Ferguson and Sean Solia.

It was particularly exciting to see Sean Solia rewarded for such an impressive debut season. Eyes will be on him to see whether he can translate last summer’s form in the both the  four day and one day formats to the bigger stage, and the foreign conditions he will face later this month.

Interesting also to see three potential wicket-keepers (including Phillips) named in a squad playing just seven matches – the pressure will be on as the search for Luke Ronchi’s replacement in the white ball format gets under way in earnest. Perhaps at this stage Glenn Phillips will be allowed to focus just on his batting, and the opportunity to build on his impressive record at the top of the order without having to think too much about ’keeping duties as well.

This will be an important tour also for Colin Munro, who will be looking to consolidate his place in the Black Caps limited over line-up after a very mixed season at the highest level in 2016-17.

He has continued to impress in the CPL and his restrained 57 not out off 51 balls was instrumental in seeing his Trinidad and Tobago Knight Riders XI into the tournament finale, as they beat the Guyana Amazon Warriors in the Qualification Semi-Final by four wickets.

For the Warriors Luke Ronchi managed an equally restrained 23 off 21 balls, but it was down to his efforts that the Guyana team had made it this far. Earlier in the week his ‘Player of the Match’ performance saw the Jamaica Tallawahs (minus Glenn Phillips on this occasion) eliminated. Ronchi scored 70 from 33 balls, with five fours and five sixes, as his side overhauled the Tallawahs’168/8 with five wickets and 13 balls to spare.

It’s been an impressive couple of months for Ronchi, firstly with Leicestershire and then in the Caribbean, and no-one will begrudge the hard-working Wellingtonian his success as he embarks on his post-international cricket career as a T20 troubadour.

More success for the New Zealanders remaining in action in England as the tempo switches there from the frenetic to the composed, with T20 giving way to the last few rounds of the County Championship. Last week Durham took on Kent and after Adam Milne had captured 4/68 to restrict Durham to 217 in their first innings, Tom Latham came back with a second innings century, 119, to help the northern team seize back the initiative. Chasing 371 to win, Kent hung on to survive at 184/9, the last pair keeping out the final 11 balls of the match in a nail-biting climax.

Batting at number 8 for Warwickshire, Jeetan Patel had a useful double of 47 and 30 against Lancashire but he was less successful with the ball, managing just 1/159 across the two innings as his team went down by eight wickets.

Two test matches over the last week as well, and one might say that normal transmission has been resumed, with Australia turning the tables on Bangladesh and the West Indies going down to England in a low-scoring match at Lord’s. Both first innings were all about Ben Stokes, his 6/22 reducing the West Indies from 78/2 to 123 all out and then his 74-ball 60 resurrecting a line-up that was crumbling at 24/4 and steering his side into the lead before he was out at 128/7.

The second innings was all James Anderson – not only did he capture his 500th test wicket, the sixth player to do so, but the 35-year old also finished with his test best figures of 7/42 as the West Indies collapsed again, slipping from 94/3 to be all out for 177.

Anderson, who played for Auckland in the 2007-08 season, has taken 39 wickets at 14.1 in seven Tests this summer, a quite remarkable achievement.

And England would have been pleased to see Mark Stoneman and Tom Westley, two of their new players this season, combining in an unbeaten 72-run partnership to usher their side to a nine-wicket, series-winning, victory.

The end of the match also heralded the close of Henry Blofeld’s career as a commentator, at the grand age of 77. Not only did the crowd rise to him as he competed his last spell behind the microphone, but at the end of the match the England team invited him to their dressing room where Joe Root presented him with a signed England shirt.