Musings from Beyond the Boundary – 11 June

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

What a week of upsets it’s been, and maybe none more so than in St Lucia, where the West Indies lost to Afghanistan in the first One Day International of the three-match series between the two sides.  The fifty over contests follow the T20 series which West Indies took three to nil.

Afghanistan managed a handy, if not imposing, 212/6 in their 50 overs, and West Indies were accumulating steadily enough at 68/2 after 22 overs, when the precocious 18 year old leg-spinner Rashid Khan was thrown the ball. He took wickets with the first two balls he bowled, and then repeated the dose with another two-in-a-row in his second over, at the end of which he had four wickets for one run. He finished with 7/18 off 8.4 overs as the West Indies were dismissed for 149.

Rashid Khan was identified very early as a special talent and, still more than three months from his nineteenth birthday, he already has 60 wickets in his 27 ODIs, at a remarkable average of 15.05. He’s played the same number of T20 Internationals where his 42 wickets have come at an even more astonishing 14.35, with a best of 5/3, in two overs against Ireland. And all this in an international career which started in Zimbabwe when he had just turned seventeen and which is not yet two years old.

He has already played in the IPL and the Bangladesh Premier League, and after Afghanistan’s tour is set to join the Caribbean T20 circuit as well – certainly a name to watch.

The rest of the upsets have come in England, where the weather has continued to play havoc with the Champions Trophy and the men with the calculators have been kept busy updating the Duckworth-Lewis equations. Pakistan surprised South Africa in a rain-affected result, Sri Lanka defied the form-book with an emphatic and impressive win over India, the Australians’ wretched fortune with the weather continued as they exited the competition at the hands of England, and of course Bangladesh made it two in a row against New Zealand.

The New Zealanders were probably the first international side to appreciate just how good a side Bangladesh had become in home conditions, and last season in New Zealand we saw their continued evolution through a tour where their results did not truly reflect the quality of some of the cricket they played.

The Irish Tri-Series and now this emphatic ‘must-win’ victory against the Black Caps showed that this is a side with a lot of skill and, now, a lot of international experience – a side learning at last how to win away from Dhaka and Chittagong.

For New Zealand it has been an unsatisfactory couple of weeks. Take out Williamson and Taylor, and with the exception of Adam Milne, none of the players given their opportunity to step up really made strides forward. Of the established players Martin Guptill made starts, without playing the dominating innings we’ve come to expect at least once every series he plays, Tim Southee took handy wickets, and with Trent Boult and Milne placed Bangladesh in such a position that their eventual victory was even more meritorious. Santner’s results with the ball were tidy, without being decisive.

The problem continues to lie with the middle order batting and their ability both to build on the foundation being laid by the top four and to close out the innings in a conclusive fashion.  There must now be places up for grabs in this side, and perhaps a change in philosophy which suggests that sacrificing one of the all-rounders for another front-line bowler may be the most aggressive and potentially successful way forward.

The New Zealanders to have come out of the contest with the most credit were, not surprisingly, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, who put together successive partnerships of 99, 95 and 83. Amongst batting partnerships who together have combined for over 2,500 ODI runs, this pair now rank third in the world, averaging more than 58 each time they bat alongside each other. The two pairs ahead of them are AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla, and just fractionally, MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina.

Meanwhile in England the County Championship continues. Over the weekend Neil Wagner picked up 3/110 as, in a quirk of scheduling, Essex takes on Surrey for the second time in consecutive matches.

Surrey has faced another New Zealander in recent weeks too, with Middlesex captain James Franklin scoring his first hundred of the season against the South Londoners at Lord’s. This was Franklin’s 22nd first class century, which puts him level with Jeff Crowe and just one behind Bevan Congdon and Martin Donnelly.

This season so far, Franklin is averaging 37 with the bat in the Championship, and he’s picked up a handy 8 wickets at 22.9. In the Royal London One Day Cup he averages 31.4, with a couple of half-centuries boosting his run tally, but he’s bowled only 15 overs with an expensive return of 3/97.

As the Black Caps disperse to their next assignments around the cricketing world, attention at international level now switches to the White Ferns and their progress though the ICC Women’s World Cup. The team flew out of New Zealand over the weekend and will join up this week with the several squad members already in England. We wish them well!