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Musings from Beyond the Boundary – 21 July

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

Travelling in Canada doesn’t offer the same cricketing attractions as some other parts of the world, but a recent visit to Vancouver took me to the idyllic Brockton Oval, in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. Brockton Oval is the home of cricket in mainland British Columbia and while the pitch is an artificial one, the setting makes up for any shortcomings of the playing surface.

The ground had its origins in 1891, when an area of land near Brockton Point, was cleared for use as sports fields, and the Oval grew from this initiative. Sir Donald Bradman played here in 1932 during a tour of Canada and the United States organised by Arthur Mailey, and he famously described it as “without question the most beautiful cricket ground in the world”. His words are immortalised today on a sign outside the charming Brockton Pavilion.

In his 1950 autobiography, “Farewell to Cricket”, Bradman continued, “The ground is on the edge of a beautiful wooded park. Sitting in a deck chair on the verandah of the rustic pavilion, one can look across the field towards the towering snow-capped mountains, while in the foreground an arm of the harbour runs behind the sightboard, and lazy old ferries dawdle across the bowler’s arm. To the right there are small clumps of ornamental trees. Then further to the right is the harbour where seaplanes come in to graceful foamy landings, and beyond is the city itself with its tall, stately buildings on the skyline.”

Today, the buildings of the city are a lot taller, the ferries rather more modern, but otherwise not much has changed. Even the incessant background noise of the seaplanes landing and taking off remains a feature of a wander around this delightful cricket ground. It is hard to argue with Sir Don’s assessment.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to see any of the inaugural ‘Global T20 Canada’ tournament while I was in the country. All the games in this competition were played at the Maple Leaf Cricket Club’s ground in suburban Toronto, and ultimately the Vancouver Knights took the title, beating a West Indies B team in the Final.

Tim Southee was part of the winning side, making an important contribution with ten wickets at 23.3. His economy rate was a little high at 9.3, but he provided strong support for the West Indian Sheldon Cottrell, who took 16 wickets at just 14.3. Indeed four of the top nine wicket-takers in the tournament were in the Vancouver squad.

Another New Zealander to enjoy success was Anton Devcich, playing for the Toronto Nationals. He top-scored with 92 not out on his way to an aggregate of 204 runs, placing him in seventh spot amongst the tournament’s run-scorers. The other Kiwis on show were Luke Ronchi, who turned out for the Edmonton Royals and averaged a handy 21.5 with the bat and George Worker who made contributions with both bat and ball.

There has also been plenty of international cricket to capture attention in recent weeks, and some of it has been surprisingly one-sided. Bangladesh’s struggles in the Caribbean, and especially Zimbabwe’s capitulation against Pakistan amidst more news of player and administrative difficulties, are both significant concerns as the game works to expand its overall reach and popularity.

And in the English domestic game the focus has switched to the Vitality Blast T20 competition. There are plenty of New Zealanders involved this year, and there is rarely a game which doesn’t hold some local interest.

There’s been good news in the performance of a number of the Black Caps in action. Perhaps most successful has been Tom Latham, who warmed up with 42 against Yorkshire and followed that with 58 off 34 balls against Birmingham before falling to Grant Elliott, the Wellington veteran capturing 3/40. Next came a match-winning unbeaten 98 from 55 balls for Durham against Nottinghamshire.

Latham hasn’t been a first choice player in the national T20 XI but he has certainly put his hand up for consideration over the past couple of weeks and at the moment he is the tournament’s fifth highest run-scorer

Equally satisfying will have been Corey Anderson’s form in the middle order for Somerset. His highest score has been a 29-ball 59 against Glamorgan, but he’s been very consistent with an unbeaten 40 against Gloucestershire, 39 from 24 balls against Middlesex and 30 not out against Kent. Anderson hasn’t had a lot of bowling, contributing just a couple of expensive overs, but after his recent injury-enforced absences from the game his batting performances have been very encouraging.

Of the Aces in action, Lockie Ferguson has made a big impact for Derbyshire. Playing Worcestershire, he dismissed Martin Guptill for 65 on his way to figures of 2/25 in a losing cause, and then against Nottinghamshire he had 4/26 from his four overs. Again that wasn’t enough to secure a win for his side though, with Ish Sodhi taking 2/35 for the victors. Most recently, Ferguson had 2/33 against Northamptonshire, and at this stage only three bowlers in the competition have taken more than his nine wickets.

Guptill also got past 50 against Birmingham (Warwickshire play under the Birmingham moniker in the Vitality Blast), scoring 51 before falling victim to Colin de Grandhomme who finished with 2/38. De Grandhomme has proved useful to his team with both bat and ball, taking 2/24 against Nottinghamshire, and adding 63 off 33 balls in a high-scoring encounter with Durham.

Colin Munro is with Hampshire and he made up for a sedate 30 (off 31 balls) against Sussex with a more characteristic 63 from 40 deliveries against Middlesex. He also chipped in with the ball, grabbing 2/20 from three overs.

Amongst the other local players in action, Adam Milne has had some useful spells for Kent (where he has replaced Matt Henry) including 3/22 in his side’s victory over Surrey, while Tom Bruce has had limited opportunities due to Sussex’s strong top order performances.

Shortly the T20 spotlight will move across the Atlantic as the CPL, the Caribbean Professional League, kicks off in early August. Exciting news that another of Auckland’s own, Mark Chapman, will be joining the St Lucia Stars for this year’s tournament. Last in the league in 2017, St Lucia will be looking for big things from Chapman, and Auckland supporters will wish him every success.

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