Musings from Beyond the Boundary – 10 June

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

No shortage of cricketing headlines in the past week, none taller than those earned by the White Ferns in establishing a new World Record total in an ODI in their first 50-over encounter against Ireland.

It is a record which they already held, having scored 455/5 against Pakistan in Christchurch in 1997, however that was against a side having their first taste of international cricket and selected from what was a tiny and very inexperienced player base.

Ireland are different proposition altogether. While they are not in the top echelon of the international game, the Irish women have been playing at the highest level for a long time, and have appeared in five previous World Cups, finishing fourth in 1988 (admittedly out of five teams competing) and fifth out of eight in England in the 1993 competition when New Zealand were beaten finalists.

Although they finished last in the 2016/17 World Cup Qualifying Tournament, the highest total they conceded was 271/5 against Pakistan and they do not appear as the victims in any of the previous top scores in Women’s ODIs. In short there was no history to foretell the record-breaking rampage by the New Zealanders.

And just to make clear the White Ferns’ record, they have now put together the two highest innings in ODI cricket. The highest score in a men’s ODI is England’s 444/3 against Pakistan in 2016.

Friday’s onslaught also came without the power of Sophie Devine and the class of Katey Martin, both of whom sat out this game.

In her first ODI, Wanganui’s Jess Watkin under-lined her potential, scoring 62 in a 172-run opening partnership with Suzie Bates who went on to score 151 from just 94 balls.

For the captain it was her tenth ODI hundred, and her second score of over 150, making her the first player to achieve this twice in the women’s game. At the same time she passed the great Debbie Hockley’s New Zealand career record of 4,064 ODI runs, as she climbs the all-comer’s list headed by India’s Mithali Raj, with over 6,000.

Hearts’ skipper Maddy Green scored her first ODI century, her impressive 121 occupying 77 balls. And late in the innings Amelia Kerr made her highest ODI score with a 45-ball unbeaten 81 which included three of her side’s seven sixes. She is the youngest White Fern to pass fifty in an ODI.

Kerr is still in her last year at Tawa College, and when she’s not playing for the White Ferns or the Wellington Blaze she turns out as the only young woman in her school’s First XI, for whom she was a century-maker last summer. Seeing her in the line-up must be a daunting prospect for the school’s opponents.

The bowlers then played their part, wrapping up the Irish innings in 35 and a half overs for 144. Leigh Kasperek returned her best ODI figures of 4/17, while fellow off-spinner Anna Peterson was the most economical of the Kiwis, with 1/17 from her seven overs. This was after Hannah Rowe had Ireland reeling at 17/2 in the sixth over, after a pair of early wickets.

The White Ferns were equally impressive earlier in the week in the T20 tour-opener. This time Kasperek had 3/25 and Lea Tahuhu 2/22 as the Irish were restricted to 136/8. Wearing the wicket-keeping gloves in her first outing for New Zealand, Bernadine Bezuidenhout was outstanding with three catches and two stumpings.

Suzie Bates and Jess Watkin then provided a dress rehearsal for their ODI performance, chasing down the Irish total in just 11 overs. Watkin’s 38-ball 77 was the highest score by a White Fern on debut, and later in the week she came close to the same honour in ODIs. Her 62 then was eight away from the record of 70 shared by Liz Perry and Lynda Prichard.

For Perry and Prichard that remained their highest ODI score – it would be a surprise not to see Watkin exceed her impressive starts in both formats as her career unfolds.

Other big news of the week was Mike Hesson stepping down as Black Caps Coach. While the timing was a bit of a surprise, the decision was less so. Hesson has always found the time away from his family a challenging part of a role to which he has given his all.

His successful record has attracted much positive attention since his announcement last week, but equally important is the culture within the team which he now bequeaths to his successor.

That culture has not come about by accident but is the legacy of Hesson’s effort alongside Manager Mike Sandle, Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson and the rest of the senior members of the team, both playing and non-playing. Arguably it is the culture of the side, how the Black Caps play their cricket, which has attracted the most attention around the globe and earned the respect with which the team is received.

In England the Royal London One Day Cup has entered the knock-out phase and there is interest in the coming week’s quarter-finals which pit Ross Taylor’s Nottinghamshire against Matt Henry’s Kent, while Neil Wagner’s Essex take on Yorkshire.

The top performer amongst the Kiwi contingent last week though was James Franklin, ironically not playing as a ‘New Zealander’ these days. He closed out Middlesex’s One Day Cup campaign with 3/42 in his side’s win over Gloucestershire and then scored 31, equal second-best, as his team went down to the Australian tourists.

In between the One Day finals, the County Championship has resumed over the weekend. The New Zealanders have made a quiet return to four day action, although Neil Wagner has 2/91 as Essex battle to dismiss Lancashire.

Back home, news of Rob Nicol’s retirement after a long and distinguished career which began with Auckland against Central Districts, back in November 2001. The first of his ten first class centuries came later the same season, against Otago.

He wore a few different caps through his a career, including the Black one, and in 2011 he became only the second New Zealander to begin his ODI career with a hundred, finishing with 108 not out  against Zimbabwe in Harare. On that occasion he shared an opening partnership of 153 with Martin Guptill, the country’s other ODI debut centurion.

Later the same summer, Zimbabwe now visiting New Zealand, there was another century-plus opening stand with Guptill, as Nicol’s 146 led the Black Caps to 372/6 in Whangarei.

Nicol’s international career encompassed all three forms of the game, and came to a close in Sri Lanka in 2013. Latterly he returned from Canterbury to lead the Aces to national T20 honours in 2015/16, a win due in no small part to Nicol’s own contribution – through the campaign he averaged 39.9 with the bat and his 13 wickets came at just 15.9 each, with an impressive economy rate of 7.14.

Last season he took the reins in Dunedin, and while it was a less auspicious season on the field Nicol can look back at a long and successful career as an all-rounder and as a respected and very canny captain. He’ll also be recalled for one of New Zealand cricket’s most distinguished moustaches for many a year!

And as one career closes, another lifts into another gear. Just selected for the Indian Under-19 squad is 18-year-old Arjun Tendulkar, a left-arm quick bowler and lower middle-order batsman with a father called Sachin. The younger Tendulkar has already shown some of his father’s tenacity and courage, returning to the game with a re-modelled bowling action after suffering stress fractures in his back. One to watch perhaps…