Musings from Beyond the Boundary – 17 June

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

Surely, the most outstanding individual performance in a One Day International since the format materialised in Melbourne in 1970-71. Back then, the thought of someone batting through an innings and scoring 232 unbeaten runs (off just 145 balls) and backing up with 5/17, bowling leg-spinners, would have seemed inconceivable. Almost 48 years later it remains astonishing.

We first saw Amelia Kerr in action as a 14-year-old playing for the Wellington Blaze in the televised Final of the Women’s T20 Competition, against Otago. She took 3/17 that day to cap off a splendid first season: 10 wickets at 11.6 in T20 matches and another 17 at 21.4 in the 50-over format. More than that though, she looked all class and it was no surprise to see her rapid elevation to international status less than two years later.

Now she has become an international phenomenon, underlining her potential to become one of the game’s greats. More importantly, at a time when women’s cricket is receiving more attention and publicity than ever before, she has brought the eyes of the nation onto the game. Not just the front page of the New Zealand Herald but an editorial as well, while Hilary Barry appeared on national television wearing a White Ferns shirt.

Kerr’s efforts, on top of a string of record-breaking performances by her team through their Irish sojourn, has brought women’s cricket into the public consciousness in the same way as the Black Ferns’ achievements have done for women’s rugby.  And as an unassuming 17-year-old schoolgirl she has become a role model for all aspiring young cricketers, female and male, by personifying the possible.

Coincidentally last week I read an essay by Kirby Fenwick entitled ‘Taking To The Field’, about attending the first Women’s AFL match in Melbourne. She wrote of the pioneers of women’s Australian Rules Football, “It’s a history filled with women who defied social conventions and embraced the physicality of sport, of women who endured jokes made at their expense in national newspapers, of women who were given the worst of everything: equipment, facilities, coaching, opportunities. And it’s a history of women who took to the field anyway” (in ‘Balancing Acts: Women in Sport’, Brow Books, 2018)

Much the same could be said of the narrative surrounding women’s cricket, and how satisfying it must be for the likes of Ruth Martin, Rona McKenzie, the Lamason sisters-in-law, Trish McKelvey, Debbie Hockley and all the other White Ferns who’ve gone before to have the current side receiving the accolades and attention which their own deserving efforts did not always engender.

Kerr and Leigh Kasperek didn’t leave too much room for the Hearts players in the side to grab any of the limelight in that third match, but the Auckland contingent certainly put their hands up in the second ODI. Maddy Green followed up her maiden ODI hundred with a half century and then Anna Peterson scored 46 in 36 balls to nurse her side past the 400 mark.

Peterson then featured again with ball in hand, taking 2/12 while Holly Huddleston chimed in with 2/13 as Ireland slumped to be all out for 112.

An important week for the men’s game too, with the first round of contracts for next season being announced. Exciting news for the Aces with the signing of Will Somerville, the Wellington-born off-spinner who comes to Auckland via Otago and New South Wales.

Somerville, aged 33, debuted for Otago against Wellington at Queenstown back in March 2005 and took 3/26 in his first turn with the ball, including the wicket of Jesse Ryder, caught behind by another future Aces player, Gareth Hopkins, for 81.

He later moved to Australia and has added Big Bash appearances to his 16 first class outings, which have earned him 55 wickets at a very handy 26.9, with a best innings performance of 8/136 against Queensland in 2016-17.

His return to New Zealand is most welcome – with Tarun Nethula not available for first class cricket the Aces attack suffered last year for the absence of an experienced spinner and Somerville’s maturity and experience should add significant value to the youthful Auckland line-up.

The big news of the contract announcements was the absence of the afore-mentioned Ryder from the Central Districts listing, but equally noteworthy was the retirement of Brent Arnel.

The 39-year-old  medium-fast bowler steps back after 111 first class matches spread over 12 seasons – throw in 93 List A outings, the same number of T20 encounters and half a dozen Test matches and his contribution becomes clear. His 394 first class wickets came at 26.9 and many was the occasion when he was called on to carry the burden in less than seam-friendly conditions.

Ironically for someone who played first class cricket for both Northern Districts and Wellington, all five of his home tests were played either in Hamilton or at the Basin Reserve. He’ll be missed at far more than just these two grounds over the coming summer.

Meanwhile in England the Quarter Finals of the Royal London Cup weren’t so friendly to the New Zealanders involved. Kent beat Nottinghamshire by 9 wickets with Ross Taylor scoring just one before becoming Matt Henry’s only victim in the match, while Yorkshire beat Essex by 25 runs, in spite of Neil Wagner’s best endeavours.

Wagner had managed just 1/54 with the ball, dismissing top-scorer Gary Ballance for 91. Then, with Essex chasing 260 to win, he came to the wicket with the score 159/8. He was eventually last out at 234, after adding a run-a-ball 35.

The County Championship has been kinder to the Kiwis: Taylor scored 74 out of a Nottinghamshire total of just 134 against Somerset, while Tom Latham scored 67 as Durham beat Derbyshire. However, the highlights came in the Kent versus Gloucestershire encounter: Matt Henry captured his fourth five-wicket haul of the campaign with 6/58, while for Gloucestershire Kieran Noema-Barnett had an outstanding match with 73 not out and then 42 not out in the second innings.

On the international scene Afghanistan endured the toughest of Test Match baptisms, succumbing in two days to a rampant India. This time Rashid Khan, such a star for Afghanistan in limited overs cricket, found the game rather more challenging, with 2/154 from 34.5 overs. But to put into perspective the task which Afghanistan faced, this was only the fifth first class match of Rashid Khan’s career, while 30-year-old skipper Asghar Stanikzai had previously played only 23 first class matches.

One suspects that with the support of the cricketing world, Afghanistan’s day will come. They probably shouldn’t be looking to Australia for that support though: it is sad to see that Bangladesh’s test match tour there has been called off by the hosts amidst questions about its financial viability.

When one of the cricketing world’s financial powerhouses takes this sort of an approach to a rising member of the test match family it raises yet more questions about the future of the game’s finest format. In a week when women’s cricket has stolen the headlines in this part of the world, Bangladesh can take consolation from their own women’s team, who upset India in the Final of the Asia Cup T20 competition.