Musings from Beyond the Boundary – 22 April

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

Rarely can the weather have signalled such an abrupt end to the cricket season as it has this year with autumn well and truly upon us, even before stumps were drawn on the National Club Competition.

The Awards nights have come and gone, the New Zealand Cricket event with almost indecent haste just a day after the dramas of Hagley Oval, to enable players to attend before heading to their commitments in India and England.

The Auckland Cricketer of the Year Dinner took place a week later, with Eden Park a beacon of light amidst a darkened Kingsland as many of the neighbours were without power after the storm which signalled to us all that summer was indeed a thing of the past!

The Auckland Cricket Awards Night is a very professionally-presented affair and a suitably prestigious occasion at which to celebrate all that is special about our game. From the Carson Cup, recognising the contribution to cricket of our volunteers, and won this year by North Shore’s Steven Pleciak, through all the player awards to the ultimate prize, the esteemed John Morris Trophy for the Auckland Cricketer of the Year, the evening is an appreciation of all the game’s special moments and enduring successes through the summer.

This year the Auckland Cricketer of the Year was Holly Huddleston, who having taken the prize for International Cricketer of the Year in 2017, went one better this time round. She was up against some tough competition too, names like de Grandhomme, Munro, Guptill, Ferguson, Chapman, and a number of her own Hearts team-mates as well – people like Maddy Green, Anna Peterson and Lauren Down.

Huddleston’s story is a salutary one for people who play cricket for the love of the game and with an ambition to be the best they can be. She started her career with the Northern Spirit, and up until Under-18 level she was a wicket-keeper, before deciding she’d quite like to try bowling.

In January 2006 she made her State League debut for Northern Districts, in a side which beat Canterbury, led on the day by her current White Ferns Coach Haidee Tiffen. Huddleston bowled 5 overs for 20 and, listed at number 10 on the batting card, wasn’t required to show her skill with the willow.

She played regularly in the side over the following seasons but without really making her mark – by the end of the 2008/09 season she had played 35 matches, finding a place in the lower middle order and averaging almost 16.5 with the bat but with only 9 career wickets, at an average of 74.5.

The next season she moved to Auckland and joined the Hearts and at once almost doubled her career wicket tally, snaring 8 victims at an average of 23.4 with a best return of 3/20. She hadn’t previously taken more than one wicket in an innings. A year later came her first representative half-century as she found herself opening the batting, and sometimes the bowling as well.

In 2013/14 she took 13 wickets at 18.5 in the national One-Day Competition and in February 2014 she was rewarded with her ODI debut for New Zealand against the West Indies. Reminiscent of her start in provincial cricket she was not required to bat after being listed at number 11 in the order, and her four overs cost 17 runs, without the distinction of a wicket.

She didn’t have to wait long to make her mark though, as in the very next match she grabbed 5/36 in spite of being the sixth bowler used.

Since then she’s added another two ODI 5 wicket hauls, her best of 5/25 coming against South Africa, the country of her birth, in 2016. The other was 5/35 against Sri Lanka in last year’s Women’s World Cup and she now has 40 ODI wickets in 26 matches at an average of just 20.1.

For the Hearts last season Huddleston took 21 wickets in the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield competition, topping the national charts, and she had another 12 T20 victims, ahead of fellow White Ferns Amelia Kerr and Leigh Kasperek and only 4 behind the competition’s top tally. Add in useful runs and New Zealand Cricket’s Phyl Blackler Trophy for her bowling and Huddleston has had a huge season, capped off by Auckland Cricket’s top award.

Guest speaker for the evening was former Australian captain Kim Hughes, who spoke passionately in particular about his early career and about his life after cricket, taking time to recognise the people who helped him as a youngster from the country making his way in the tough world of District Cricket in Perth. He also spoke frankly and with feeling of his disappointment about the recent ball-tampering scandal and the damage it has potentially done to the game in Australia.

It wasn’t hard to see the passion and self-belief that allowed him to be the audacious and courageous stroke-maker that he will be remembered as by those who saw him batting when he was on song.

While the season has come to an end at home, there are still plenty of Kiwis in action off shore with the English County Championship and the IPL under way.

In England Matt Henry has been making up for all those days of 12th Man duty with the Black Caps, making a huge start to his time with Kent. He began the season with 4/33 and 3/37 as Kent went down to Gloucestershire, and then stepped up again to deliver a match double of 5/28 and 7/45 in his side’s 9 wicket win over Durham – the best innings and match figures of his career.

For Northamptonshire Doug Bracewell has had three-wicket hauls in consecutive innings, 3/31 against Middlesex and 3/101 versus Warwickshire, who have been captained in their first two outings by Jeetan Patel.

Ross Taylor missed out in his first match for Nottinghamshire but then scored an important 57 against Yorkshire, helping his team get to 188 after losing their top three with just six runs on the board. For Gloucestershire, Kieran Noema-Barnett made a very handy 46 against Glamorgan.

In the IPL, class has shown through with Kane Williamson and Trent Boult comfortably the most successful of the New Zealand contingent to date. Williamson, captaining Sunrisers Hyderabad this year, has had two half-centuries and an unbeaten 36 from  his four matches while Boult has 6 wickets for the Delhi Daredevils, to say nothing of yet another unbelievable catch to add to his spectacular catalogue of outstanding grabs.

To put Boult’s bowling performance into perspective, his 2/29 against the Kolkata Knight Riders included a rare maiden over, while he took 1/33 against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the midst of the blitz which saw AB de Villiers smash a 39 ball unbeaten 90… Impressive bowling.

Finally this week we read of the likelihood that the new short-form city-based league being established in England may move from the T20 format to a 100-balls-an-innings structure with fifteen six-ball overs and a final 10-ball stanza for the unlucky bowler entrusted with the final effort.

The first impression is that this is gimmickry for the sake of gimmickry. The second thought is, simply, why? Time will tell, but do we really need another brand of ‘instant’ cricket?  Hallelujah for the longer form, and the two test matches we enjoyed last month against England which proved once again that there can be little more exciting in international sport than a hard-fought game of test cricket decided late on the final day. Perhaps we’ve just been spoiled…