There’s so much top level cricket happening at the moment that it’s hard to keep up! Outside of New Zealand’s circle, England’s meritorious test victory over Sri Lanka has caught the eye. With Jonny Bairstow out injured, Surrey wicket-keeper Ben Foakes stepped up and became the fifth wicketkeeper to score a hundred on test debut – the last was Tom Blundell.
He was joined as an England centurion in the match by opening batsman Keaton Jennings, coincidentally the last Englishman to score a century in his first test. Throw in Moeen Ali’s eight wicket haul, his best return overseas, and more useful runs from last season’s Auckland Ace Sam Curran (second-highest scorer in England’s first innings, with 48) and this was a convincing win for the visitors. It was also England’s first win away from home for fourteen test matches.
In his final test, the Sri Lankan veteran Rangana Herath gathered three wickets to take his career tally to 433, sneaking past Sir Richard Hadlee’s 431, and drawing level with Stuart Broad, who sat out this game. The Sri Lankan slow left-armer made his test debut against Australia, way back in 1999. In 2014 he captured his test best of 9/127 against Pakistan – his compatriot Muttiah Muralitharan is the only other bowler to take nine wickets in a test innings this century.
In the United Arab Emirates the Black Caps had a convincing first-up win in the opening ODI of the three match series against Pakistan, but Pakistan came back strongly to take the second match. Highlight of the first encounter was surely Trent Boult’s early hat-trick, which dealt a mortal blow to the Pakistan run-chase. However it was Lockie Fergusion’s two wickets in two balls which wrapped up the innings. The Auckland fast bowler finished with 3/36 in that match and then grabbed three of the four wickets to fall as New Zealand went down in the second encounter, in spite of Ross Taylor’s unbeaten 86, following up on his 80 first time round.
New Zealand A have been in four day mode against Pakistan A, both their two matches ending in draws, and Auckland’s Jeet Raval has been leading the side as he prepares to join the top side for the test matches ahead. He led from the front in the second match, scoring 97, but he’ll doubtless be disappointed at again missing out on the international century which has also eluded him at test match level.
18-year old Rachin Ravindra, who made a name for himself in last summer’s Under-19 World Cup, scored a pair of half-centuries and averaged 58 across the two matches – his first two first class outings. There were also half centuries from Will Young, who has enjoyed a very solid tour, Logan van Beek and Neil Wagner, while Scott Kuggeleijn’s 4/52 in the first match was the best return amongst the bowlers.
In the Caribbean the Women’s World T20 has kicked off in grand style with Harmanpreet Kaur’s 103, the first T20I hundred by an Indian woman. Her innings at the expense of the White Ferns was quite remarkable in its acceleration – after 13 balls she was on 5, and she brought up her half century twenty balls later. Her hundred arrived in just another 16 balls (49 in total) and she hit 8 sixes as India reached 194/6.
The White Ferns started promisingly in reply with openers Suzie Bates and Anna Peterson raising the New Zealand fifty in just the sixth over, eight balls faster than India had managed. However when Peterson was out shortly after, the New Zealanders struggled to establish another substantial partnership.
Bates was fifth out, becoming the highest run-getter from any country in Women’s World T20 contests in the course of her 67. Katey Martin added a boisterous 39 from 25 balls (including eight boundaries), while Leigh Kasperek took just nine balls over her 19 but no one outside these four made it to double figures and the White Ferns’ chase ended 34 runs short. This is a tough tournament: next up they face Australia in what will almost certainly be a ‘must-win’ match.
Back home the big news has been the elevation of Aces off-spinner Will Somerville to the Black Caps, following an injury to Todd Astle. The former Otago and New South Wales bowler joined the Aces at the start of this season and has bowled some handy spells in both the Plunket Shield and Ford Trophy, as well as contributing some useful runs in the lower order (including a maiden List A fifty last week against Wellington). He is a tall man, and although he promises plenty of variation he tended to push the ball through quite briskly when I watched him against Canterbury in the Ford Trophy match a week or so back.
His first class record is very respectable and he gives another option to an attack which already has available the leg spin of Ish Sodhi and the left arm finger spin of Ajaz Patel. At the age of 34, and after working for some time as a chartered accountant between his cricketing spells in the South Island and then across the Tasman, Somerville’s elevation to the national side is quite a story – here’s wishing him a very successful arrival on the international scene, should the opportunity come his way.
Meanwhile, after such a promising start the Aces have stumbled in their defence of the Ford Trophy. A small Eden Park crowd on a blustery Sunday were treated to a last ball thriller over Canterbury, thanks in large part to a composed hundred from the skipper, Craig Cachopa. Since then however there have been two big losses, first to the Wellington Firebirds and then to the Central Stags.
For the Stags, Dean Foxcroft added 90 to the century he scored mid-week against Northern Districts, helping the Stags to a daunting 295/8 in their fifty overs. Twenty-year old Foxcroft, the former South African Under-19 player now living in Hawkes Bay, was playing only his third List A match and he is now averaging over 111, with a strike rate of 99.5. Incidentally, in his last match for the South African Under 19s he scored 117 against New Zealand.
The chase in front of the Aces quickly became even more challenging as Doug Bracewell opened the bowling for the Stags with three consecutive maidens, and after that the Auckland innings just never got going, with Michael Barry’s 36 the only score beyond the teens. The Stags’ international attack of Seth Rance (3/40) and Ben Wheeler (4/24 on his welcome return from injury) led the way as the Aces were all out for 125.
The unbeaten batsman left 18 not out at the end was debutant Michael Snedden. Earlier he had taken 3/61 with the ball, a very promising start to his representative career. Michael is the latest member of a true Auckland cricketing dynasty. His father Martin was at Eden Park to watch him in action today; his great-grandfather Nessie played his first match for Auckland as a 17-year-old in 1909 and his great uncle Colin also wore the blue Auckland cap, either side of the Second World War.
With four matches to play, the Wellington Firebirds and the resurgent Otago Volts have now opened up a six point lead on the rest of the field. The Aces are still sitting in third place, which is the minimum required to earn them a play-off berth, but only four points separate the bottom four sides. We have an interesting fortnight of Ford Trophy cricket ahead.