Musings from Beyond the Boundary – 12 March

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

Saved by a cyclone… or the remnants of one. Auckland’s hopes of adding the Plunket Shield to the spoils of summer have not improved, but they haven’t slipped beyond possibility quite yet.

The rain that brought the weekend’s match against the Stags to a soggy and premature end will have left the Central Districts side very frustrated. While they have clawed their way ahead of Wellington to find a place at the head of the table, the latter side still has a day to play in their encounter with the Otago Volts and that match is intriguingly poised – the Southerners need another 153 runs with eight wickets in hand, in a game that has fluctuated one way and then the other over the first three days.

The Aces find themselves 21 points behind the Stags, so they will need some big wins, and some other  results to go their way as well, for the Shield to come this far north, but with three games to play the competition still has a way to go.

The Stags have been a stumbling block for Auckland more than once this season and this time they were so close to seizing instant revenge for their Ford Trophy Final defeat. If the rain had been just a few overs later in arriving they may well have captured the final two wickets to secure that innings victory.

We talked last week about Greg Hay’s sterling career record and his phenomenal season, and we’ve spoken a few times this summer about Will Young’s class, and it was this pair who created the platform for the Stags’ big first innings. Hay added a third century to his season’s record, while Young’s 162 was the highest knock of his first class career.

Hay comfortably tops the Shield run-scoring aggregates at present, and top of the wicket-takers is his team-mate Ajaz Patel. Last season left arm spinner Patel finished with 44 wickets in 9 matches. Already this season he has added another 35 wickets to an increasingly impressive career tally.  It was Patel who proved to be the Aces’ nemesis over the past few days at the Outer Oval, with back-to-back five wicket hauls and the astonishing match figures of 60.5 overs, 29 maidens, and ten wickets for 81.

Disappointing to hear of Colin Munro’s decision to concentrate on white ball cricket henceforth. He has fashioned an outstanding first class record, one of the very best by a New Zealand cricketer.

I’m sure the knowledge of his own game which he honed during all those big innings for Auckland is a big part of his ability to bat the way he does in the shorter game and I agree with a comment Mark Richardson made over the weekend that when it comes to batting there is no substitute for volume. However there won’t be an Aces supporter who won’t wish Munro good fortune as he embarks upon this new phase of his spectacular career.

I spent a very enjoyable Sunday at Hagley Oval watching the White Ferns construct a near-perfect display in beating the West Indies by 205 runs to make a clean sweep of their three-match ODI series. They had won the first game by just one run as the West Indies almost chased down the 279 they needed for victory, so the big margin at Hagley Oval was a surprise.

The only disappointments were the unfortunate early run out of Lauren Down in her first outing at the top of the New Zealand batting order, and Maddy Green’s departure just as the innings was accelerating to its eventual 310/5, a record against the team from the Caribbean.

Sophie Devine has had a wonderful series and she batted with power and panache on this occasion, as she and Anna Peterson added 63 unbeaten runs from the last 7.1 overs to see New Zealand past the 300 mark.

Earlier we had been treated to some sublime strokeplay from the likes of Suzie Bates and Amy Satterthwaite. Their fluent orthodoxy was a delight to watch and it was easy to miss that the run rate was steadily around five runs an over until that late flurry. In an innings of 310, only 22 boundaries were struck – 88 runs, just over 28% of the final tally. That’s a lot of running between the wickets!

In the field and with the ball New Zealand were clinical and accurate. They were also very aggressive, no one moreso than Devine who demonstrated that no quarter was to be given with a pair of perfectly-directed and very hostile bouncers to the West Indian tail-enders, triggering late and ungainly  evasive action by both the unfortunate visitors.

The Black Caps didn’t enjoy their visit to Hagley Oval quite as much as the White Ferns, and it’s hard to deny that England were the better team in the men’s ODI series. But that takes nothing away from a hard-fought battle in which three games were decided in the last over, including last week’s Dunedin classic.

There are performances which remind us all why we love the game, and Ross Taylor’s innings was one of those. After a long day of work I only saw the final 50 minutes or so of his effort and I just sat there watching in awe as he battled his body to win the match with an astonishing display of batting coupled with self-discipline and self-belief. May his injuries recover before the test match starts next week!