Musings from Beyond the Boundary – 12 November

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

A storming homecoming from the Aces last week as they returned to a seam-friendly Eden Park and comfortably saw off the challenge of an experienced Otago Volts line-up.

You’d have been excused an expression of alarm as the Aces slipped to 52/5 on the first morning but Michael Barry, Matt McEwan and Ben Horne (who top-scored for the second innings in succession) saw the home side through to 213 before Lockie Fergusson, supported by debutants Danru Ferns and Ben Lister, set Otago on the back foot. With 7/34, Fergusson achieved his best first-class bowling figures, and a second consecutive five wicket bag, and by all accounts he was very impressive with his pace and aggression.

An important 84 from Robbie O’Donnell, supported by a half-century from Sean Solia in his return to the Aces, enabled Auckland to set Otago a daunting 321 to win.  Fergusson picked up another five wickets while Lister grabbed 3/41 as Otago were dismissed for 185. Fergusson’s 12 wickets in the match was not only a personal best but it took him to top spot amongst the Plunket Shield wicket-takers to date with 19 wickets, in spite of the lean pickings in the opening match at Wellington and missing the second innings against the Stags through injury.

In 4th equal place amongst the wicket-takers is Neil Wagner, one of the few Volts players who could take some personal satisfaction from the visit to Auckland. He took five wickets in the match and batting at number nine was undefeated in both innings, scoring 39 not out and 27 not out.

Auckland’s win left them fifth in the table, but only one point behind Canterbury and Otago who share third place. This week they travel to Seddon Park to take on a Northern Districts side who have yet to register their first victory of the season – it will be an important match for the Aces.

Way out in front of the competition are the Wellington Firebirds who have won three out of three. This time it was a career-best match return of 10/117 by Logan van Beek which spear-headed their push for victory after a first innings in which Stephen Murdoch missed his second century of the season by just 3 runs. Van Beek’s effort, in just his third outing for Wellington since moving north from Canterbury, sees him just one behind Lockie Fergusson amongst the season’s top wicket-takers.

For Northern Districts, Dean Brownlie had an excellent double with 82 and 72, but no other Northern batsman was able to pass 50 in the match.

Three rounds in, the top run-scorer of the competition is Jesse Ryder and in last week’s third match he fell just eleven runs short of a fourth successive first class century. As it happened though, it was two of his team-mates who produced the only hundreds of the week, George Worker and Greg Hay combining in a 188-run opening partnership against Canterbury. For Worker, returned from national duties, it was a seventh first class hundred while for Hay, who made his debut back in the 2006/07 season and averages over 40 in the first class game, it was a ninth three-figure score.

Before all the Plunket Shield action last week there was a special Auckland highlight as the Black Caps convincingly beat India in the second T20 International at Rajkot last weekend, thanks in large part to a fantastic hundred from Colin Munro, who shared a 105-run opening partnership with Martin Guptill.

Between the Auckland pair they clubbed ten sixes, seven of them by Munro, alongside the seven fours which helped him to an unbeaten 109 from 58 balls. New Zealand finished their twenty overs at 196/2 and with Trent Boult returning his best T20i figures with 4/34 the game fell comfortably New Zealand’s way.

It is worth taking pause over Munro’s innings – it his second T20i century, and both of them have come within the last 11 months. His first was against Bangladesh at Mt Maunganui back in January. His 101 then came in 54 balls and coincidentally comprised the same mix of seven fours and seven sixes. No one else in the admittedly brief history of international T20 matches has scored two centuries in the same calendar year, and only three other players have scored more than one T20i hundred.  No surprise that two of those are Brendon McCullum and Chris Gayle, while the third is another West Indian, Evin Lewis, both of whose hundreds were scored against India.

Munro’s century was the first against India in India though, the previous highest T20i score against India at home being Brendon McCullum’s 91 at Chennai in 2012.

It will be exciting to watch Munro’s progress this year – certainly the Aces have missed last season’s  prolific run-making while he’s been in India, and his white ball form in the Black Cap, allied with the heavy limited over schedule ahead, suggests we may not see too much of him in Auckland’s colours this summer.

Thanks to the weather, the T20 series was ultimately decided in India’s favour in an unsatisfactory eight-over finale which New Zealand will have been very disappointed to lose. After restricting India to 67/5 the Black Caps found runs even harder to come by as they lost early wickets – 28/4 with more than half the innings done made for a tough comeback task. Colin de Grandhomme did his best with an unbeaten 17 off 10 balls but in the end it wasn’t enough and the series was lost by six runs, the same margin as in the deciding ODI, which also went India’s way.

A mixed week for the White Ferns. They won their ODI series against Pakistan but not without conceding the final match, the first time they have lost to Pakistan. It may only have been Pakistan’s inexperience under pressure which prevented them winning the first match as well, and potentially taking the series.

The progress Pakistan have made since their entry to the international game is quite remarkable. Back on their first visit to New Zealand in 1996/97 they scored 56 from 33.3 overs in their first match, a total New Zealand chased down in 49 balls without losing a wicket. In the second match New Zealand scored 455/5 before bowling Pakistan out for 47, in 23 overs. It’s hard not to be pleased for the Pakistani women and the way their game has developed so quickly amidst such challenge.

As I write, New Zealand is two-up in the subsequent T20i series, but again the White Ferns haven’t had it all their own way. The second game was quite remarkable as after a 116-run opening partnership in just 13.4 overs between Sophie Devine and Suzie Bates, the Kiwis contrived to finish on just 150/8. In the space of ten deliveries New Zealand collapsed from 136/2 to 139/8, with three batsmen run out in the space of just four balls. It was all too much for the on-line scoring system, which seemed to completely lose track of what was happening for a few balls.

Anna Peterson and Leigh Kasperek steadied the ship and added an important eleven runs from the last eleven balls of the innings, but as it happened Pakistan struggled after a promising start and only managed 111/7 off their allocation.