Musings from Beyond the Boundary – 2 July

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

The rain continued to fall in England last week and the White Ferns would have been very disappointed that the weather in Derby saw the abandonment of their World Cup clash against South Africa.  Not only was this a game they would have targeted to win, equally importantly it was the opportunity for a tough work-out before their big clash against Australia. Shared points also have a tendency to throw up odd outcomes once the tables are being tallied to decide the semi-finalists. Hopefully in this instance New Zealand’s one point from the match will prove an asset rather than a liability.

After Australia, there is another break before the White Ferns finish the round robin part of the tournament with a rush. On Thursday they face the West Indies and two days later it is Pakistan. Then on Wednesday 12th it is another big clash against England, before India are the opposition on the 15th, so a big fortnight ahead to qualify for the knock-out matches.

So far, apart from England’s opening loss to India, the results have gone with the form book, although there has been some high-scoring along the way. Eighth-ranked Sri Lanka would have been delighted to notch up 257/9 against Australia, even if the Australians, for the second time in four days chased down a target of 200-plus while losing only two wickets.

For Sri Lanka, Chamari Attapattu scored a monumental 178 not out, off only 143 balls and including six sixes. Not only was this the third highest score ever in women’s ODIs, but it was also two runs more than Sri Lanka’s previous highest team score against the Australians. In reply though, Meg Lanning’s unbeaten 152 led another convincing victory effort.

Meanwhile England threw off their shaky start to the competition as they reached 377/7 against Pakistan, with centuries to Natalie Sciver and skipper Heather Knight. Once again, rain intervened in this match, but there was enough play for Duckworth and Lewis to see England home.

For New Zealand, Suzie Bates plays her 100th ODI in the match against Australia – thus far she has scored almost 3,600 runs at an average of 42.3 and taken a handy 72 wickets as well. To put that batting performance into context, Martin Guptill averages 43.3 in ODIs and Ross Taylor averages 44.1, so Bates’s figures put her right at the top of the class.

She has twice been the ICC Women’s ODI Player of the Year and in 2016 was also Wisden’s ‘Leading Cricketer in the World’ in the women’s game. (Incidentally, in the same year Kane Williamson took the corresponding title for the men’s game – a very special ‘double’ for New Zealand.)

Speaking of the men’s game, Zimbabwe stole the headlines again this week.  After losing in Scotland and in the Netherlands over the past couple of weeks, they turned the tables with a remarkable win over Sri Lanka in Galle. Led by a maiden ODI century from opener Solomon Mire, Zimbabwe became the first team to chase down a target of over 300 in Sri Lanka, reaching 322/4 with 14 balls to spare.

No question that the Sri Lankan team are battling their way through a tough transitional phase at present, but at the same time it is very reassuring to see Zimbabwe post such a significant win towards the end of an overseas venture that hasn’t always gone to plan.

In England the Royal London One Day Cup has been decided in another high-scoring contest, with Nottinghamshire scoring 298/6 in reply to Surrey’s 297/9.  Historically the English One Day Final has been the end-of-season showcase at Lord’s, but this year the scheduling changes saw it moved to mid-summer. Nottinghamshire opener Alex Hales seized the opportunity to score an undefeated 187, the highest score ever in a Lord’s Final, the first of which was played back in 1963.

Incidentally, that first Final was played over 65 overs a side, with no bowler able to bowl more than 15 overs. Wisden commented that “provided the Competition is conducted wisely it will attract great support in the future and benefit the game accordingly.”

This week the latest edition of ‘The Nightwatchman’, The Wisden Cricket Quarterly, arrived in the letter-box and amongst the usual collection of satisfying reading there is an article by Lawrence Booth, current editor of the Wisden Cricketers Almanack, about cricketers who’ve scored a century in their only first class innings. This includes the story of Whangarei-born Avinash Sharma.

Sharma, who played club cricket for Cornwall, won a scholarship to Oxford University to study Public Health and in 2010 he was selected to play for Oxford against Cambridge, in the annual University match at Oxford. The home side batted first and both openers scored hundreds in an opening partnership of 259, breaking a first wicket record that had stood since 1886. Sharma then came in at number three and helped himself to 185 runs – he was still at the crease when Oxford declared at 611/5, scored in just under 130 overs.

Oxford went on to win by an innings and Sharma returned to New Zealand and the Cornwall Club while he pursued his career as a surgeon. Today he lives in New York, and plays cricket for a club in the Bronx. There was never another first class match, and given that his sole first class innings was an unbeaten 185, Sharma didn’t even finish with an average!

A further Kiwi twist to this tale – a few days before the Universities match, Sharma played for Oxford against the Durham Academy.  He was fielding close to the wicket as a young Tom Latham swept a ball hard into his ankle. Sharma was in pain, but wasn’t going to let that come in the way of his first class debut, so he didn’t seek attention until after Cambridge had been defeated: the ankle was broken and Sharma was in plaster for six weeks!