Musings from Beyond the Boundary – 20 May

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

Cricket may be in adjournment in southern climes but there has been no shortage of action elsewhere, both on the field and off.

In India the IPL winds its way to the play-offs with Kane Williamson’s Sunrisers Hyderabad topping the points table, spear-headed by the captain’s own remarkable form. He is averaging 60 as I write, and has passed 50 in eight of his 14 innings. His chart-topping 661 runs include 26 sixes, just four fewer than AB de Villiers has struck, rather putting the lie to those at home who claimed last summer that the skipper couldn’t justify his place in the Black Caps T20 line-up.

Incidentally, in the rest of the competition only de Villiers and K L Rahul have managed as many as half a dozen fifties, highlighting Williamson’s consistency.

Next most successful of the New Zealand batting contingent in India has been Colin de Grandhomme, averaging 26.2 from his 9 matches.

Reinforcing the adage that class prevails whatever the format, Trent Boult has also had a magnificent series with 17 wickets at 25.5 in 13 matches. A best return of 2/20 highlights how reliable he has been leading the Delhi Daredevils attack. Only three bowlers have more victims at this stage of the tournament.

Equally impressive has been Mitchell McClenaghan for the Mumbai Indians – he has taken 14 wickets in 11 outings, at just 23.7 each, an encouraging return for the short form specialist.

Meanwhile in England the headlines have been all about Matt Henry, playing for Kent in the County Championship Second Division. After so much time carrying the drinks tray through the Black Caps’ summer campaign he has relished having the Duke ball in hand, leading the English first class averages with 37 wickets in four matches at an astonishing 9.59.

His figures justify closer scrutiny: 4/33 and 3/37 against Gloucestershire, followed by a career-best 5/28 and 7/45 versus Durham. Next opponents were Glamorgan, and his results read 4/31 and 4/59, while against Sussex he grabbed another ten wicket haul with 4/69 and 6/53. He also scored an important 55 from number nine, having come to the crease with Kent 146/7.

The County Championship now takes a break as the Royal London Cup gets under way and Henry marked the first day of the 50-over competition with 2/30, two of only three wickets taken by Kent as they lost to southern neighbours Sussex.

The first round of one day matches also marked Neil Wagner’s return to Essex colours. He began well with 3/40 against Middlesex, for whom James Franklin scored an unbeaten 29 in a losing cause.

Ross Taylor is sitting atop the Nottinghamshire batting aggregates at the intermission in the County Championship. He has passed fifty three times and put together an important double of 47 and 83 against Hampshire, helping his side to a 203-run victory. However he followed that up with a pair against Lancashire, the second dismissal coming first ball, as former England bowler Graham Onions captured him lbw on both occasions.

Taylor had his revenge scoring 58 as Nottinghamshire beat the same opponents in the opening round of the Royal London One Day Cup.

Doug Bracewell has had some useful spells for Northamptonshire but perhaps his most telling contribution has been with the bat. Coming to the crease with his team 102/7 against Warwickshire, he and Steven Crook added 122 for the eighth wicket and he went on to be last out for 81, with the total  a far more respectable 256.

That wasn’t enough to save his team from defeat though, and the Jeetan Patel-led Warwickshire eleven sat comfortably at the top of the Second Division as the four day game moved into its early season interlude.

Despite the seam-friendly conditions in England so far this season, the ever-green Patel has already picked up 16 wickets, including a double of 4/94 and 6/76 against Derbyshire. Remarkably, this was only his fourth 10-wicket match haul in a career spanning 262 first class games.

Auckland supporters will be interested to hear that another bowler at the other end of his first class career has captured his first ten wicket bag. Sam Curran, who played for the Aces through last summer’s Burger King Super Smash, took 6/54 and 4/47 for Surrey against Yorkshire, in the process capturing his 100th first class wicket and being awarded his county cap: an impressive start to the season for the 19-year-old.

Elsewhere in the cricket world, Ireland will have been satisfied with a meritorious entry to the test match world, in spite of their five wicket loss to Pakistan. After losing their first day in the top echelon to rain, the Irish, in front of a crowd which included Mick Jagger, had Pakistan 13/2 when play eventually got underway. They then lost their own first four wickets for just 7 but a second innings hundred by Kevin O’Brien set the visitors a fourth innings target of 160.

Nerves would have been a-flutter in both camps as Pakistan slumped to 14/3, but a 126-run partnership between Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam saw their team to the brink of their eventual five-wicket win.

The match was played at the Malahide Cricket Club’s Ground just north of Dublin, where the clubrooms is the only permanent structure. Everything else at the ground was erected specially for the occasion, at a cost of one million Euro.

The next international cricketers to grace Ireland’s shores are the White Ferns who take on the home side in one T20 and three one Day Internationals in Dublin early next month.

At home, the list of contracted players for next season has been published, minus any surprises. Corey Anderson’s inclusion suggests confidence that he has at last overcome the dreadful plague of injuries which have blighted his career and we’ll all be hoping for his sake that is the case.

And in England attention still rests on the much-discussed concept of 100-Ball cricket for that country’s new city-based ‘shortest form’ tournament.  Much of the rhetoric to date has lacked clarity, and ECB Chairman Colin Graves will have set heads a-scratching with his recent comment that the idea has been developed because “The younger generation are just not attracted to cricket”.

He is quoted as saying “they want more excitement, they want it shorter and simpler to understand”. It is tough to see how an innings just 20 balls shorter than the current T20 format (and finishing with a ten-ball over after 15 six-ball stanzas) meets his criteria, or why younger people “just not attracted to cricket” will find this modification any more appealing.

It will be interesting to watch this idea come to fruition (or not) – the ultimate proof will, as always, be in the execution…