Musings from Beyond the Boundary – 7 January

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

Colin Munro won’t want to stay away from Mt Maunganui in New Year’s week in future!

Last year on 6th January he scored his first T20 International hundred, 101 against Bangladesh. This year on 3rd January he scored his third, the first in the World to achieve the feat. In between there had been his unbeaten 109 against India in Rajkot.

Let’s just pause to take in the magnitude of Munro’s achievement.

International T20 cricket dates back to February 2005 (when New Zealand played Australia at Eden Park). Last Wednesday’s match at Bay Oval was the 638th T20 International since then. In all those matches no one had scored more than two centuries – until Munro. And all three of his hundreds have come in a few days less than 12 months.

Comparing his performances with a pair of the acknowledged ‘champions’ of the format, Munro averages 32.7 in international T20 cricket, with a strike rate of 161. The West Indies’ Chris Gayle averages 33.8, but with a strike rate of 145, while Brendon McCullum averages 35.7, striking at 136.

Last summer we dwelt upon Munro’s Plunket Shield run-scoring feats for Auckland – he turned out for the Aces six times and scored 685 runs at 85.6, with four hundreds and a couple of fifties. At 52.7, his first class career average is higher than anyone who played the first class game last summer and has made more than five appearances.

And on Saturday at the Basin Reserve, against Pakistan, he showed his skills in the fifty over game, with his 35-ball innings of 58 setting the Black Caps off on the path to their highest ODI score at the ground.

Munro has mentioned in interviews this week that given his approach to batting there will be failures along the way. The wonder is that his success rate is so high – what spectacle he brings to the game. He is a unique talent, and for someone like me who measured personal success more on occupation of the crease than on runs scored, his skill is simply unfathomable. Enjoy what he is offering us this summer.

The Basin Reserve hasn’t seen a lot of ODI cricket since Westpac Stadium opened at the beginning of 2000, but it was still a surprise to hear that Kane Williamson’s century there on Saturday was only the second by a New Zealander at the venue (and the third overall, with Pakistan’s Shoaib Mohammad the only overseas player to break three figures, in March 1989).

That first Basin ODI hundred by a New Zealander was way back in the ground’s first limited over international, against England in March 1975. The centurion, who like Williamson batted at number three, was Bevan Congdon and he made 101. In those days of eight ball overs, this was a 35 over match and New Zealand were all out for 227 off the last ball of the innings. Coincidentally given the fate of Saturday’s game, rain stopped play with England 35/1 after ten overs, and that was that.

Rain has been a common element of the domestic scene over the past week as well, with another two Burger King Super Smash games being abandoned, and the Aces suffering their second wash-out of the tournament, this time in New Plymouth against the Stags.  All six teams have now lost at least one game to the weather, but the Aces and the Wellington Firebirds have each endured two wash-outs, which does create an unbalanced points table.

They both suffered for it as the sun returned, Wellington slumping to a 62 run loss at Hagley Oval as the Canterbury Kings dismissed them for 88 in one ball less than 15 overs, and the Aces falling victim to the hard-hitting Northern Knights for the second time in the competition.

It was another superb Sunday-afternoon crowd at Eden Park, with advance sales even better than for the Christmas Eve match, and once again the crowd were treated to a glorious mixture of sumptuous stroke play and sheer power-hitting,

Glenn Phillips fell in the fifth over to a shot he’d probably prefer to forget, but Sean Solia and Mark Chapman combined in a delightful 61 run partnership that showcased the talents of these two fine young batsmen.

Solia was the first to go, one of the day’s two victims for Ish Sodhi, recently elevated to top spot in the ICC World T20 Bowling Rankings. His dismissal set off a middle-order tremble, with four wickets falling for 31 runs. One of those was Mark Chapman, whose 57 came from just 30 balls and reminded us all again what a pleasure he is to watch in action.

At 129/5, Sam Curran joined Robbie O’Donnell and the game changed again as these two added 73 from the last 43 balls of the innings. As he had in the last match at Eden Park before Christmas, Sam Curran was most impressive, batting with power, invention and intelligence, and he was unbeaten on 48 from 25 balls when the twentieth over was bowled. The maturity of his game belies his youth, and someone said, he is probably enjoying his cricket a lot more than his brother is at the moment.

The Knights started with the belligerence that has marked their game this summer with Anton Devcich taking to Ronnie Hira from the start. Tim Seifert hardly faced a ball, and the score was 31 in the third over when he hit just the third delivery he’d received straight back to Hira, who took a magnificent catch. The ball had been a full toss, not the first Hira had bowled, but it saw the tournament’s top run-scorer heading back to the tent!

Two overs later, Dean Brownlie also hit one back to Hira and this time the caught-and-bowled was rather more straightforward. At the other end though, Devcich was offering up a master class in controlled aggression and his 37-ball 76 was a very accomplished performance. He fell to Ben Lister who also dismissed Brett Hampton in the same over. Another wicket or two then and it may have been a different game, but it was not to be.

Between them, Daniel Flynn and Daryl Mitchell have played over 120 T20 matches and all that experience showed as they accelerated away to a match-winning unbeaten 78 run partnership which saw the Knights victorious before the end of the seventeenth over. Both batsmen brought up their fifties shortly before the end of the game, and Mitchell’s in 22 balls, was a particularly powerful hand. Flynn appeared more circumspect, but his half-century was just five balls slower.

It was an entertaining evening’s cricket, and it has set up an intriguing tussle for the three play-off places. The Aces are at home again on Wednesday to the Canterbury Kings, and then their last game before the finals is again at Eden Park next Sunday against the Otago Volts. On Saturday the Volts had beaten the Central Stags to register their first win of the tournament. There will be a good deal of pride on the line when they meet the Aces next weekend.