Musings from Beyond the Boundary – 9 July

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

Two rousing innings, from Rachel Priest and then from Sophie Devine, distinguished the White Ferns’ progress through the World Cup this week, after their setback last weekend against Australia.

New Zealand’s 219 in that trans-Tasman battle never looked quite enough, in spite of the efforts of Hearts’ middle-order batsman Katie Perkins who came to the crease with New Zealand in strife at 96/4 in the 27th over. Her top score of 52, supplemented by a late 35 from Erin Bermingham after Suzie Bates’ half-century at the top of the order, offered up a more-challenging chase than at one stage looked likely.

In the end Australia got there with only 8 balls up their sleeve, in one of the competition’s tightest matches thus far. The moment of the match for me though was the sublime wrong ‘un delivered up by Amelia Kerr to Elyse Villani, which saw the Australian pavilion-bound from the first ball she faced.

On to Taunton for their mid-week match against the West Indies and Leigh Kasperek and Lea Tahuhu had three wickets apiece as the team from the Caribbean struggled to 150 from 43 overs. Enter Rachel Priest and Suzie Bates to begin the chase, and 89 balls later the first wicket fell with the score at 120 when Priest was caught at extra cover for 90 from 55 deliveries, all in less than an hour. In the course of her innings Priest had scored New Zealand’s fastest World Cup 50, from 28 balls.

The inevitable victory came after just 18.2 overs, all the more impressive as it came against the World T20 champions.

Saturday’s match against Pakistan followed a similar pattern, and was probably more expected given the White Ferns’ dominance over this opposition at home last summer. This time it was 20-year-old Hannah Rowe who stood out with the ball in her World Cup debut, taking 3/22 off nine overs, while Kerr, Kasperek and Tahuhu each picked a brace apiece.

New Zealand lost Rachel Priest in the third over, but that brought Wellington’s Sophie Devine to the crease for a one-woman demolition job. Priest’s record for the fastest fifty lasted just 2 days as Devine raced to her half-century in 27 balls, and by the time she was out for 93 off just 41 balls New Zealand were just one run away from victory.  Along the way, Devine had hit nine sixes, a record for any women’s ODI, and not too many of those cleared the boundary by less than a comfortable margin!

This week it’s England on Wednesday and then India on Saturday, and with that the semi-finalists will have been decided.  At the moment it’s a five-horse race, with the unpredictable India and South Africa holding the wild-cards.  New Zealand really must win at least one of their remaining matches to secure a place in the top four – their aggressive batting against the West Indies and Pakistan has at least given them a formidable net run rate, and perhaps diminished the risk that the wash-out against South Africa will prove a deciding factor.

Otherwise in England the County Championship takes a break as the Natwest T20 Blast takes centre stage. Aucklanders’ attention will be on the Warwickshire side, dubbed the Birmingham Bears for the shortest format. There’s a real New Zealand flavour to this side with Colin de Grandhomme and Grant Elliott joining Jeetan Patel at Edgbaston for the T20 part of the season, and they’ll be pleased to have taken two wins from their two opening matches.

Patel yet again showed his importance to the Warwickshire side taking 2/18 in the local derby against Worcestershire and following up with 4/22 as Nottinghamshire succumbed. De Grandhomme had a wicket in the first match and scored 6 not out in the second, while Elliott enjoyed a 22-ball contribution of 38 to the victory over Nottinghamshire.

John Wright coaches Derbyshire who also had two wins from two after the opening skirmishes. Matt Henry is in the Derbyshire XI and while his bowling has been expensive in both games, he batted at number six against Yorkshire and hit three sixes in a 10-ball 28.

Ish Sodhi is with Nottinghamshire and he followed up his 0/37 in the opening match against Yorkshire by bowling Grant Elliott on the second day of competition to finish with 1/31.  In that first game of the round he had been dismissed first ball, as was Tim Southee for the Dan Vettori-coached and Brendon McCullum-led Middlesex.

Middlesex started their campaign with a tie against Gloucestershire, and Southee had a little more success with the ball than with the bat, capturing 2/39, while McCullum managed just 7 in his opening innings. For Gloucestershire, Kieran Noema-Barnett scored 10 not out.

The other New Zealander in action on the first weekend of competition was Mitchell Santner who scored 12 and took 0/19 for Worcestershire in that match against the Birmingham Bears.

For those whose attention is drawn more to the international game, an excellent start to his international captaincy career for Joe Root – 190 in his first innings at Lords’ as skipper and England in a commanding position with two days to play. In the Caribbean, India took the ODI series 3-1 after another Kohli hundred: with one match abandoned, the home team had gone into this game with a chance to square the series, but it was not to be.

In Sri Lanka a spirited Zimbabwe won a rain-affected fourth ODI to go into Monday’s decider all square at 2-2. Zimbabwe’s victory came in spite of Sri Lanka’s Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka becoming the first pair in ODI history to put together consecutive double century opening stands. This has been an absorbing series and it’s been satisfying to see the fight in both sides as they’ve grappled for ascendancy.

Back in New Zealand, refereeing and the role of the off-field officials in rugby have come under scrutiny after two weeks of controversy in the test matches against the Lions.  In the cricket world there’s been a change for the better in this regard.

From 1 October there will be a big change to the Decision Review System, with teams no longer losing a review when the technology comes up with an “umpire’s call” verdict.  This is a long-overdue reform to the system, as previously the team requesting, and losing, the review were technically as correct as the umpire in their judgement of the situation but were penalised in the same way as if their review request had been frivolous.

On the other side of the coin, in test cricket the review count will no longer restart after 80 overs.  Teams will need to make do with two reviews for the whole innings, which should stop the DRS being used as a tactical tool and ensure it is saved for the situations where one team or another clearly and strongly believes an error has been made.

And in another interesting change to come into effect at the same time, an amendment to the run-out rule means that batsmen will be considered to have made their ground even if their bat bounces after being grounded behind the crease – common sense prevails…