Musings from Beyond the Boundary - 26 November


Musings from Beyond the Boundary – 26 November

James BennettAces, Domestic Cricket, Eden Park, Game Development, High Performance, International Cricket

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

A special occasion at Eden Park last Friday evening with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters opening the re-furbished Bert Sutcliffe Lounge and the Sir Roger Bhatnagar Collection of cricketing memorabilia, now entrusted into the care of Auckland Cricket.

Following Sir Roger’s arrival in New Zealand in 1980, he built up a very impressive collection of cricketing memorabilia as he became friend and supporter to many of the country’s best players.  That collection has now been donated by Sir Roger and his family to Auckland Cricket and much of it was on display at the opening on Friday.

There are over a hundred signed bats, to go alongside signed photos and illustrations, and shirts and other clothing from a vast array of cricketing occasions and from players both local and international.

The bats mark all sorts of occasions, recognising teams and individual events, like the bat used by John Wright in scoring one of his 12 test centuries and signed by him to mark the achievement.  It was good to see items from some of those less well-remembered events as well, like the bat signed by the participants in Sir Richard Hadlee’s entertaining Testimonial series in New Zealand in 1990.

Perhaps the most special though, presented to Auckland Cricket CEO Iain Laxon at the opening, was a bat with only two signatures – Sir Donald Bradman and Martin Crowe.

Only a small portion of the collection is on display in the Bert Sutcliffe Lounge at the moment, the plan being to rotate the memorabilia in accordance with the occasion at hand and not to overcrowd the facility, which has been fully renovated with new floor to ceiling banners and photographs showcasing some of Auckland and New Zealand’s best.

The collection of the Auckland Cricket Society and Supporters Club is also not forgotten, and while some of the Society’s, memorabilia is in storage, the visitor to the lounge is greeted by Bert Sutcliffe’s New Zealand jersey and on the wall facing the bar is the newly framed New Zealand blazer of Jack Mills. Of course the Lounge continues to house the impressive library of cricket books owned by the Society and Supporters Club, an under-used and perhaps under-appreciated resource.

Congratulation are due to the the team at Auckland Cricket for the fine job they have done in refreshing the Lounge and ensuring it is presented in a manner befitting its namesake, one of our country’s very best.

In a nice touch, several of the Aces and Hearts players have made significant contributions to the renovations and hopefully this has given these players both a greater appreciation of the game and its heritage and a sense of ownership in the facility. Certainly it was heart-warming to see the Aces enjoying the surroundings on Friday evening at the conclusion of the first day’s play in their Plunket Shield match against Canterbury.

Coincidentally, a week before I had been at the New Zealand Cricket Museum at the Basin Reserve, another treasure trove of cricketing history. Front of house, the Cricket Museum uses its limited space to vibrantly and succinctly tell the story of our game and its players, while behind the scenes there is one of the country’s biggest libraries of cricket books, and an archive collection so vast and so quickly expanding  it is still to be fully catalogued. There are records from the governance of the game over the years, but some of the most intriguing material is the memorabilia donated by players and their families. It is a real treat to sit and read the diaries written turnabout by the players as the New Zealand Women made their early visits to India in the 1970s and 1980s. How life on tour has changed in such a short time.

The game in New Zealand is well-served by facilities like the Cricket Museum, and now the refurbished Bert Sutcliffe Lounge reinforces its status as a wonderful place to revel in the past, while enjoying the play under way outside on the Outer Oval.

There was no shortage of action outside on Friday either, with 18 wickets falling on the first day against Canterbury. The path between the dressing room and the middle had a chance to recover a little on day two, with 20-year-old Glenn Phillips underlining his vast potential with his second first class century, gathered in typically aggressive fashion. This was Auckland’s first hundred of the season, more than halfway through the fifth game – a sign of how much ball has tended to dominate bat on so many occasions this summer to date.

The same was the case as the Women’s T20 competition and the 50-Over Hallyburton Johnstone Shield got under way. While we were celebrating at Eden Park on Friday evening the Hearts were comfortably seeing off Otago in the opening T20 encounter at Melville Park , a result they reprised the next day in the first match of the 50-over completion.

What a treat to have both the Aces and the Hearts playing at home over a pleasant early summer weekend – it was good to be able to take in a brief glimpse of both teams in action and it certainly whets the appetite for the weeks to come.

This week Test match action returns, with the Black Caps taking on the West Indies at the Basin Reserve.  These two sides last met in the test arena in the Caribbean in 2014, when New Zealand took a competitive and hard fought series by two Tests to one. Everything suggests the two sides will be evenly-matched again and the West Indies reinforced that with a dominating display with the bat on the opening day of their match against New Zealand A at Lincoln.

The visitors reached 451/9, scoring at 5 runs an over, and seemingly the only obstacle to their progress was Lockie Ferguson who claimed yet another five-wicket haul, finishing the day with 5/67 off 18 overs, particularly impressive in the context of the day. He dismissed both the West Indian openers, and also both their century-makers, Shai Hope and Sunil Ambris.

Ambris is yet to play test cricket, but during October he scored two centuries for West Indies A against the visiting Sri Lanka A side. The 24-year-old from St Vincent must be odds-on for a debut against New Zealand in Wellington come Friday morning.