Musings from Beyond the Boundary – 23 April

Cricket may have come to a close at home but there’s still plenty happening overseas and over the last few days several New Zealanders have been capturing attention with their feats in both the IPL and the English County Championship.

In India, a number of the Kiwi contingent have been in action. Brendon McCullum has strung together consecutive innings of 72, 64 and 33 for the Gujarat Lions, both the 72 and the 64 coming off just 44 balls, and the 72 including seven sixes.

He’s been upstaged by Kane Williamson who finally got a run for Sunrisers Hyderabad and capitalised on the opportunity by scoring a 51-ball 89 which included five sixes.  It was a surprise to hear that Williamson had previously hit just one six in the IPL. He added another in his next innings as well, 21 scored at a strike rate of 150 against the Rising Pune Supergiants (quite a name for a cricket team, but that’s another story).

Best of the New Zealand bowling contingent has been Mitch McClenaghan. He had 2/24 off his four overs while Brendon McCullum was on the rampage, his 2/46 against Kings XI Punjab were the Australians, Shaun Marsh and Marcus Stoinis, and he captured Corey Anderson for 0 amongst his 3/24 versus Delhi Daredevils.

Anderson had a better day against Kings XI Punjab, scoring 39 off just 22 balls and taking 1/23 off 3 overs in a welcome appearance at the bowling crease.

Adam Milne is another who has been playing and he’s had tidy returns of 1/43 against the Gujarat Lions and an impressive 2/27 versus those Rising Pune Supergiants. Trent Boult has had a quiet start to his campaign, with just two wickets in four matches, while Tim Southee hasn’t played since the 14th of the month.

Unfortunately a couple of Aucklanders haven’t had such a great start to their IPL careers. Lockie Ferguson returned figures of 0/44 in his first, and so far only, appearance in the competition.

Colin de Grandhomme had 1/15 off 2 overs in his IPL debut for the Kolkata Knight Riders, and that wicket was the familiar face of Hashim Amla. Since then though he has had two bats, for 0 and 1, and bowled just one solitary over, conceding 12 runs.  Interestingly, one of those two innings was at the top of the order, opening the batting with India’s Gautam Gambhir and falling to the left arm swing of Zaheer Khan.

In England the County Championship is into its stride and Neil Wagner continues to catch the eye. Playing in the First Division for Essex he captured 2/78 in the first innings against Somerset, and followed that up with 6/48 in Somerset’s second turn at the crease, capturing the last six wickets to fall as Somerset went from 100/4 to 174 all out. Wagner’s spell set the scene for an Alastair Cook hundred to see Essex home.

Not surprisingly so early in the northern summer, Jeetan Patel has found wickets harder to come by for Warwickshire, but he’s delivered very useful lower order runs with his last three innings bringing  29, 36 and an unbeaten 49. One wonders about the struggles he seems to have with the bat at test level.

Staying on the county scene, Tim Southee has signed up to play for Middlesex in the English T20 Blast this season, under T20 captain Brendon McCullum and coach Dan Vettori. There’s a real Kiwi flavour at Lord’s this year, with James Franklin captaining the side in the County Championship.

Last week I mentioned an appreciation of Martin Crowe by Greg Chappell.  This week I’ve come upon another tribute to Crowe, this time from the Pakistani batsman Younis Khan, in Richard Heller and Peter Oborne’s fascinating book ‘White on Green’.

Heller had assisted Oborne in researching his magnificent earlier work ‘Wounded Tiger: A History of Cricket in Pakistan’, and last year they collaborated in this book which was based on many of the interviews they had conducted in the course of gathering material for the ‘History’ itself.

One of the chapters is based on a conversation with Younis and with Misbah-ul-Haq, and in this discussion Younis rues the impact that the absence of international cricket in Pakistan will be having on the future of the game there.

Younis is quoted, “I became a cricketer because of my brothers and because of star players like Javed Miandad, Imran Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Majid Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis. Wo would go to the stadiums and cheer for them.” But he also singles out Martin Crowe: “He made back-to-back hundreds in Pakistan against Wasim and Waqar and Abdul Qadir. I saw what kind of a player he was and I was motivated by him.” (Crowe made a test hundred in Lahore in 1990, and scored heavily in the preceding Karachi test  after taking another century off the Karachi attack in a warm-up game).

Another New Zealander to earn praise from his opponents is, once again, Sir Richard Hadlee. A recent issue of ‘The Cricketer’ magazine features an entertaining interview with the West Indian opening pair, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes. They were asked which opposition bowlers they respected the most, and Haynes singled out Hadlee: “If you were out of form he was going to get you early, because he was one fast bowler who would make you play at the ball early in the innings.”

Greenidge added, “My appreciation for the great man, Sir Richard, came later, when he cut down his run-up and became a Malcolm Marshall type of bowler. He was on the spot and moved the ball so consistently, both ways. That was the beauty of the guy.”

High praise from two of the best in the business.

Finally this week, another gem from the same issue of ‘The Cricketer’ – the record for the most consecutive deliveries in test cricket without a wide is held by Michael Holding, who bowled 5,473 balls without the umpire having to extend his arms.  I’m not sure what is more impressive – Holding’s accuracy, or that this statistic has been tracked and is able to be quoted!