Musings from Beyond the Boundary – 19 June

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

The upsets didn’t stop as the Champions Trophy wound its way towards its conclusion – as the competition was getting under way just a couple of weeks ago you would have secured good odds on a Pakistan versus India final. Fortune may have favoured Pakistan in their rain-affected result against South Africa, but it was a clinical team effort which saw off Sri Lanka and secured a semi-final spot against England.

The English had long been the self-proclaimed favourites for the Trophy, but Pakistan handed them a very comprehensive defeat which had captain Eoin Morgan scrambling for explanations, which included the challenge of playing on a previously-used surface which better suited the Pakistani seam attack. That seam attack, and the ability of the batting order to scramble the necessary runs in some of the lower-scoring matches in the contest, have been the key to their success.

However, Pakistan’s highest score in the competition to date has been 237/7 against Sri Lanka – India’s powerful  batting line-up, which has lost more than three wickets in a match only once on the path to the Final, is likely to prove daunting opposition.

Overall though, the competition seems not to have captured the imagination in England quite as was hoped and the future of the Champion’s Trophy will doubtless come under further scrutiny when the ICC next sits down to study the crowded international calendar. Perhaps the saving grace is that a Final featuring India and Pakistan will be one of the most-viewed cricket matches ever, with its attendant financial benefits to the game.

The upsets continued north of the border too, where Scotland put paid to Zimbabwe in the first game of their two-matches. Zimbabwe came back to square the series, but the Scots will have taken great satisfaction from their first ODI win over a full ICC member. That it came only weeks after they had beaten Sri Lanka in an unofficial Champions Trophy warm-up will have added more joy to their cup.

Much credit must go to their skipper, Kyle Coetzer, who, despite his surname, actually hails from Aberdeen. Coetzer scored 118 in the win over Sri Lanka, and 109 in the victory against Zimbabwe. In between he had put together 112 in an ODI against Namibia, and he followed up the first match hundred with 61 in the second match against Zimbabwe. He averages almost 43 in his 37 ODIs, after failing to score in his first opportunity, against England back in 2008.

In English domestic cricket, focus shifted temporarily from the County Championship to the finals of the Royal London Cup, and after a week of high-scoring elimination matches and two semi-finals it will be Nottinghamshire and Surrey who contest the Final on 1 July.  Nottinghamshire trod a tough path to the Final – having scored 429/9 in their elimination match at Taunton, they saw Somerset get to 405 off 48 overs in reply. Then in their semi-final against Essex they chased down 371 to win with three balls to spare, after a pair of batsmen on either side scored hundreds.

Essex had a more successful week in the County Championship, beating Surrey early in the week to go to the top of the Division One table.

A quiet week for New Zealand’s men, but time to reflect on the disappointing Champions Trophy performance. One of the successes in that first rain-spoiled game against Australia was Luke Ronchi at the top of the order. His 43-ball 65 came after a difficult start, and it was interesting to hear Ricky Ponting remark in his commentary that even in Ronchi’s days in Australian domestic cricket he was recognised as a shaky beginner.  Ponting’s words proved prescient a game later when Ronchi fell first ball against England, and that prompted a look at his recent ODI career,

As it happens, since the beginning of 2015, Ronchi has batted 46 times in ODIs and in 14 of those innings he hasn’t lasted more than 6 balls. There have been six ducks in that mix. However since the start of the 2014/15 season, in innings when he has endured for more than ten balls, Ronchi has scored 979 runs at an average of 42.6 and a strike rate of 113 runs per 100 balls received – a very interesting contrast.

The White Ferns World Cup campaign got under way with a loss in an unofficial warm-up against Australia. The New Zealanders did well to dismiss Australia for 287 with an over and a half to spare, after the women from across the Tasman had been sitting comfortably on 221/3 in the 37th over. Auckland’s Anna Peterson’s 3/22 made the difference at the end of the innings, while Sophie Devine had included century-maker Ellyse Perry in her 3/44.

With Suzie Bates and Katey Martin both falling first ball, New Zealand then collapsed to 126/7 in the 26th over when Peterson was joined by Erin Bermingham. These two added 57 in just over 10 overs, with Peterson finally out for 42. Thamsyn Newton and Leigh Kasperek then combined in a last wicket partnership of 49, which saw New Zealand to the respectability of 241 in 47.3 overs, with Newton last out for 41.

This week sees further warm-up matches against India and England before the competition proper starts next weekend, with Sri Lanka the White Ferns’ first opponents.

In closing this week, a word of congratulations to Allen McLaughlin, made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to sports broadcasting.  Long the voice of Auckland Cricket, this well-deserved honour recognises an immense service to Auckland’s cricketing fraternity over so many years.