Musings from Beyond the Boundary – 3 September

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

What a week for test cricket with two superb matches both ending in dramatic fashion and both going the way of the under-dog.

Last week we reflected on the first innings partnership of 246 between Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope, and in the second innings they did it again, putting on 144 as the team from the Caribbean chased down 322 to beat England and square the series with one test to play. Second time round Brathwaite fell for 95, but Hope was there unbeaten on 118 when the victory came.

Remarkably this was the first time in 76 tests at Headingley that a batsman has scored a century in both innings, and it couldn’t have come at a more important time for the West Indies, as it saw them to their first test victory in England since 2000. In between they have drawn three times and lost on 15 occasions.

And in a game full of statistical highlights there was even an Eden Park connection. Before Hope’s double, the last batsman to score the first two centuries of his test career in the same match was Peter Fulton, against England in 2013.

In many ways Bangladesh’s victory over Australia was less of a surprise than the West Indian triumph. New Zealand have long known what a tough opponent Bangladesh are at home, and their performance in New Zealand last summer reinforced that they were fast-becoming competitive away from Asia as well.

In the past though, Bangladesh could have been accused of playing their way into winning positions and then capitulating. This time they held their nerve. A little like Hobart in 2011-12, Dave Warner’s loan hand wasn’t quite enough to get Australia across the line and the home team won an enthralling encounter by 20 runs.

This was a good team win, but the plaudits rightfully fell to Tamim Iqbal for his 71 and 78 at the top of the order and to Shakib Al Hasan, who scored 84 and 5, and took five wickets in each innings. Both players are well known to New Zealand, but perhaps less so to the Australians: this was only Australia’s fifth test against Bangladesh, and their first in 12 years (In contrast New Zealand has played 13 tests against Bangladesh, winning ten and drawing three).

Shakib is now fashioning an outstanding record – since the beginning of 2015 he has scored almost 16% of Bangladesh’s test runs and taken roughly 30% of their wickets. Through his career he now averages more than  41 with the bat and has taken 186 wickets at 32 – through the history of the game only four all-rounders have had a bigger positive differential between their batting and their bowling averages: Sir Garfield Sobers, Jacques Kallis, Imran Khan and, surprisingly, Shaun Pollock.

Another week of mixed success for the New Zealanders in the various T20 competitions around the world. The NatWest T20 Blast came to an end with Finals Day at Edgbaston – two semi-finals and the final all on a single Saturday extravaganza, and it looked like a lot of fun.

Grant Elliott’s Birmingham Bears, Warwickshire on any other day of the week, saw off Glamorgan to make the final, with Elliott contributing 32 and Colin de Grandhomme scoring a quick 30.  In the other semi-final, Nottinghamshire beat Hampshire by 23 runs, helped along by an unbeaten 15 off 9 balls at the end of the innings from Ish Sodhi.

As evening arrived, Nottinghamshire batted first in the final and their 190/4 proved too much for the home team with their trio of Kiwis, although de Grandhomme did manage an energetic 27 as the game was slipping away. For Nottinghamshire the victory reinforced their position as ‘white ball champions’ in England, following as it did their win in the 50-over competition earlier in the season.

It said something for the changing face of ‘big cricket’ to listen to the after-match speeches from the two captains – the accents of Grant Elliott and Australian Dan Christian were anything but ‘Midlands’.

Not that we needed a reminder of how the game is evolving in a week that saw Mitch McClenaghan walk away from his New Zealand contract to free himself to play more widely, and lucratively, on the global T20 circuit, this time in South Africa over the coming summer.  As McClenaghan pointed out, he is a fringe member of the Black Caps’ limited overs line-up, and not always getting consistent time on the field. However, to walk away from the international game is a statement about how vulnerable our game may be.

Given the scale of cricket in New Zealand, the ability to pay our cricketers anything like what they can earn in some of the overseas leagues (or what their peers overseas can earn playing for their country) is very limited. Again, our size also makes the creation of a local T20 competition with international appeal highly unlikely, particularly given the competition for players from the Big Bash in Australia, and now the South African competition.

The temptation for those players not guaranteed regular international cricket, those who have achieved their international goals, or those who are simply looking for a greater level of long-term financial security, are clear.

The Kia Women’s Super League also wrapped up during the week, with Rachel Priest’s side, the Western Storm, winning the final against Suzie Bates’ team, the Southern Vipers. The Southern Vipers batted first, Bates scoring 21 in an innings of 145/5, in which five batsmen got to 20 but none passed 31.  The Western Storm were led home by a marvellous 72 from 36 balls by Priest, winning by seven wickets with two overs up their sleeve.

Priest scored 261 runs in the completion to top the aggregates and she also returned the highest strike rate, at 164 runs per hundred balls faced. Suzie Bates was just one run behind her, with 260 runs at a strike a rate of 133, while the third highest run tally went to the Australian Ellyse Perry, 78 back on 182 for the tournament.

In the Caribbean the CPL continues, and the New Zealand presence regularly catches the eye. Against the Jamaica Tallawahs, Brendon McCullum and Colin Munro added 92 together in 9 overs for the Trinidad and Tobago Knight Riders. McCullum finished with 91 off 62 balls, while Munro made 42 from 24 balls. These two are both firmly amongst the top ten run-scorers in the competition, with McCullum on 309 from 9 innings, and Munro on 273.

In 13th place, despite his late arrival to the League, is Glenn Phillips, who is averaging 25.1 from his 7 matches for the Jamaica Tallawahs. During the last week he scored 31 against the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots, sharing a partnership of 81 with Kumar Sangakkara. How much benefit will the young Aucklander be getting from batting alongside one of the game’s greats through this tournament…

And Luke Ronchi has continued for the Guyana Amazon Warriors where he left off with Leicestershire, starting with a 13-ball 24 against the Barbados Tridents before scoring 55 not out in 29 balls against the Tallawahs.

This was quite a performance from the Warriors. The Jamaica Tallawahs had scored a respectable 149/7, but the Guyana team trounced them by nine wickets, racing away to 150/1 in just 10.3 overs, Ronchi and Chadwick Walton (who made 84 not out from 40 balls) sharing in an unbeaten 135-run partnership for the second wicket.

Of course Ronchi is in the Caribbean following Martin Guptill’s return home just before the sad passing of his father Peter. Peter was a Suburbs-New Lynn stalwart, an accomplished and aggressive batsman and a fine competitor. You never turned up for a game at Ken Maunder Park without the hope that Peter and his brother Stu would be back in the pavilion before they could wreak too much havoc. Too many times that hope was a forlorn one.

We pass on our condolences to Peter’s family, to his sons, Ben, himself a capable club cricketer, and Martin, and to all his many friends throughout the Auckland cricket community. He will be much-missed.