Musings from beyond the boundary – 9 April

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

The season may nominally have come to a close last week, but over recent years the National Club Championship has grown to become the true finale and so it has been again this year.  Inevitably it seems after the summer we’ve had, the rain has played a big part, with the first two days washed out completely and the third day’s play being curtailed by yet another downpour.

Fortunately though, conditions improved in the latter part of the week, and Cornwall Park has seen some engrossing play from the country’s top club sides.  The Finals Day is under way as I write, with Wellington’s Eastern Suburbs taking on Dunedin’s Albion. The side from the capital had upset Takapuna’s final hopes earlier in the week, meaning the local champion’s final match is against Mt Maunganui. (Editor’s note: Eastern Suburbs won the final by six wickets)

And as cricket finishes locally, action picks up overseas. The IPL is under way and so far amongst the New Zealand contingent taking part, Mitch McClenaghan, Tim Southee, Brendon McCullum and Trent Boult have all been in the action. McCullum has scored some handy runs, but Boult has got the most attention, with his spectacularly acrobatic boundary-riding effort to prevent a six.

Congratulations to Colin de Grandhomme who has been a late sign-up to the IPL, a prelude to his T20 stint in Birmingham later in our winter.  His career has certainly taken on a new dimension since his return to the Black Caps.

In England the County Championship has begun already and the first of the Kiwis in action there has been Neil Wagner. This year he’s with Essex, after last winter’s successful sojourn with Lancashire.  Coincidentally Essex’s first outing of 2017 was against the northern side and in his first innings at Chelmsford Wagner captured 3/100. No surprise that he bowled more overs in Lancashire’s first innings than any of his team-mates! At this stage no sign of Matt Quinn returning to the Essex top side.

Last week we referenced Tim McIntosh’s retirement, and this week came news that the much-admired Canterbury stalwart Peter Fulton has called close of play on his long career. Like McIntosh a test opener with two centuries to his credit, Fulton will long be remembered in particular for his years of service to Canterbury cricket.

His first class debut came in the last game of the 2000-2001 season on the Outer Oval at Eden Park – in a match in which McIntosh scored 167 for the home side before becoming the first of Fulton’s 164 first class catches.

Fulton himself scored 18 and 28, lbw in both innings, and those runs were the start of an eventual first class aggregate of more than 10,500 at an average the barest fraction under 40. That included a highest score of 301 not out, also against Auckland. This gave him the rare distinction of making a triple century in his first three figure innings and it remains the ninth highest first class tally by a New Zealander.

Add in more than 5,000 List A runs and almost 2,000 more in the T20 format, and Fulton’s contribution to the game becomes abundantly clear. He didn’t quite hit the heights for New Zealand that he did for Canterbury, but in 23 tests he finished with 968 runs, adding another 1,334 in his 49 ODIs, scoring a hundred against Sri Lanka to go with those twin test match centuries against England.

My two favourite memories of Fulton are this season’s astonishing 50-ball hundred to see Canterbury home in February’s Ford Trophy final against Wellington, and those test centuries at Eden Park in 2013.  He worked very hard in the first innings of that test, with his 136 occupying 346 balls. His 181-run partnership for the second wicket with Kane Williamson, who scored 91, set New Zealand up for their eventual 239 run lead over the English.

In the second innings Fulton changed gear, his hundred taking 162 balls and including five 6’s and 14 fours, in what was a magnificent display of aggressive test match batting. This time his better-than-even-time 117-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Brendon McCullum was instrumental in putting New Zealand in a position to win the test and ultimately it was just Monty Panesar’s clumsy last wicket heroics on the final evening which prevented the victory occurring.

Fulton remains one of just four New Zealanders, Glenn Turner, Geoffrey Howarth and Andrew Jones being the others, to score a hundred in each innings of a test match.

News of two more significant retirements has also come though this week. At the end of Pakistan’s current tour of the West Indies both Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan will hang up their boots.  They have been the fulcrum of the Pakistan middle order for many years and their experience and leadership saw Pakistan briefly reach number one in the ICC Test Match Rankings against all the odds.  Their personal performances speak for themselves, but their contribution to the game goes well beyond the runs they’ve scored.