Musings from beyond the boundary – 14 May

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

It’s been no time at all since close of play on the New Zealand season, and the national side is back in action. I write this on the eve of the Black Caps’ match against Ireland, their first of this novel tri-series. Starting with a win becomes that much more important given the abandonment of the first match in the contest, between the hosts and the strong-looking Bangladesh side.

New Zealand come into the encounter after a very good win in a 25-over warm up match against an Irish ‘A’ selection. The Black Caps scored at comfortably above 9 an over, with Ronchi, Latham, Broom, Munro and Worker all getting past 20 with the bat. Ronchi’s 41 came from 21 balls, and Worker’s unbeaten 37 at the death took only 15 deliveries, but of all the batsmen only Ross Taylor failed to score at better than a run a ball.

Hamish Bennett and Seth Rance then combined to destroy the Irish hopes as the home side found themselves 5 down for 26 in the fifth over.

For Rance, with 4/13 from his four overs, it was an encouraging first outing in New Zealand colours. Since his List A debut in 2010 he has quietly fashioned a very impressive limited overs record. In the 50-over format he now has 57 wickets at 22 from his 33 matches, to say nothing of 50 T20 wickets at 21.07, in 40 outings.  He’s no slouch with the bat either, having fashioned three half-centuries amongst his 561 first class runs. It will be interesting to watch the 29 year-old’s progress over the next couple of weeks.

Neil Wagner didn’t get a run in the warm-up match but he arrived in Ireland looking for his ODI debut fresh from some impressive performances for Essex in the Royal London One Day Cup. Opening the bowling in recent weeks with Aucklander Matt Quinn, Wagner’s 4/41 against Hampshire included internationals Mike Carberry, George Bailey and Kyle Abbott. He followed that up with Kumar Sangakkarra and Gareth Batty as his victims against Surrey, in an innings where Quinn also chipped in with 3/34. And before joining the Black Caps, he took 4/58 against Glamorgan.

Meanwhile in India the IPL wends its way towards the play-offs. The last couple of weeks have been a mixed bag for the New Zealanders. Brendon McCullum’s tournament came to an early end due to injury, but not before a 27-ball 45 against the Rising Pune Supergiants. Kane Williamson, in spite of his quick-scoring, has struggled to get a game in the last fortnight as his team have tried to balance their mix of overseas of players.

Corey Anderson has had his ups and downs but came good with an unbeaten 41 from 24 balls against Rising Pune Supergiants, following that up with 18 not out, with two sixes, against the Gujarat Lions.  Encouragingly, he continues to be seen on occasions at the bowling crease, albeit with limited success to date.

Martin Guptill experienced a couple of misses but found momentum with an 18-ball 36 (and one of the most spectacular of outfield catches) to help his Kings XI Punjab side to 230/3, and a narrow victory against Mitch McClenaghan’s Mumbai Indians.

McClenaghan finished with 1/54 on this occasion, but once again he has proved one of the best-performed of the New Zealand contingent in India. His 3/34 against Royal Challengers Bangalore included Virat Kohli, and his 1/26 (off four overs) versus Sunrisers Hyderabad was Dave Warner, for 6.

Then there is Colin de Grandhomme, whose fairy tale summer was capped off with a late invitation to join the Kolkata Knight Riders, where he seems to have fashioned a regular place as a utility player. He has opened both the batting and the bowling in different matches, and in other games has neither bowled nor been required to bat, but he continues to pop up with useful contributions.

There was 36 off 19 balls batting at number six against the Rising Pune Supergiants and 31 at number three against Royal Challengers Bangalore. A game later there was a tidy 4 overs for 37, opening the bowling against Kings XI Punjab. Then against Mumbai Innings there was a handy 29 off 16 balls batting at number seven in the order.

In this match he opened the bowling with Trent Boult, who took 2/30 in a welcome return to action, while for the Mumbai Indians Tim Southee captured 2/39 in a rare appearance in this year’s contest. With the Champions Trophy just weeks away it is good to see Boult and Southee getting some time on the field after what must have been a frustrating spell on the sideline for them both.

In the West Indies an absorbing test series reaches its climax and Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan have each played their last test innings. Misbah finished with an average a fraction under 47, Younis with an average of 52.3, but reading the tributes to the pair by members of the Pakistan side reinforces that the impact, influence and value of these two players went far, far beyond the runs they scored. One suspects their impact on the game will gain increasing recognition in their absence.