Musings from Beyond the Boundary – 15 October

Just a couple of weeks ago we were talking about Jeet Raval’s struggles to gain some momentum in his short late-season sojourn with Yorkshire in the English County Championship. No such issues back home in the opening round of the Plunket Shield, with the Aces opener scoring his side’s first century of the summer, and his own 15th in the First Class arena.

Raval occupied the crease for almost five hours, stroking 102 and helping his side to a first innings lead over the Wellington Firebirds at the Basin Reserve after the home side had been dismissed for 255. Matt McEwan was the most successful of the Aces bowlers with 4/48, while off-spinner Will Somerville snared his first three wickets for Auckland following his return to New Zealand from New South Wales.

The innings was helped along significantly by the 107-run fourth wicket partnership by Raval and Robbie O’Dionnell, who finished with 73, and then a handful of useful twenties by Graeme Beghin, Will Somerville, Ben Horne and Danru Ferns secured for the Aces their handy 58-run first innings lead.

Unfortunately though, the weather played the dominant role in the game as it petered out into a quiet Saturday afternoon draw.

The weather also played a big part in the match between Canterbury and the Central Stags in Nelson with time lost to rain and the ground coated in frost on the fourth morning. However here both sides forewent an innings to turn the game into one of an innings apiece and the result was an exciting penultimate-over victory to the Stags, after Canterbury’s last pair of Will Williams and Andrew Hazeldine had batted more than 25 overs and added 76 runs. With just six more balls to come, Ryan McCone bowled Hazeldine to give the Stags the second outright victory of the round.

Earlier in the match Ross Taylor had scored an aggressive 75 and Willem Ludick had completed his maiden first class century for the Stags. Pretoria-born Ludick is only 21 and playing just his second First Class match, having previously represented the South Africa Under-19s.

Taylor’s Black Caps colleague Henry Nicholls top-scored for Canterbury as Seth Rance spear-headed the Stags’ run to victory with the season’s first five-wicket haul.

The other outright victory came quickly after an amazing first day of the season at Bay Oval where 21 wickets fell before stumps. Here a Northern Districts side full of Black Caps took on an Otago eleven depleted by some high profile player moves over the winter. It was one of those players, Neil Wagner, who played a big part, alongside Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme and James Baker, in having Otago back in the pavilion on the stroke of lunch for 108.

For the Volts, Jacob Duffy had top-scored with 31 from number ten in the order, and so it would be for Northern Districts with Trent Boult, also at ten, blazing his way to a 37-ball 61, his best first class score. He had come to the wicket with the score 59/8, after his side’s other internationals, Kane Williamson, BJ Watling, Colin de Grandhomme, Ish Sodhi and Neil Wagner, had managed just one run between them. His rear-guard action took  the home team  to a 28-run lead.

He also managed to take 28 runs off one Mark Craig over, with four sixes and a four, before his former Black Caps team-mate had him caught on the boundary a few balls later.

The Volts showed more of their fighting capabilities in the second innings, Hamish Rutherford leading the way with his 12th first class hundred before Wagner and Baker teamed up to disembowel the middle of the Otago line-up. With Kane Williamson contributing 83 and Henry Cooper an unbeaten 66, Northern Districts cantered to a straightforward eight wicket win.

For Auckland the transition to the four day game in the midst of winter’s last blast (hopefully) was a tough one, coming from the heat of Abu Dhabi and the frenetic pace of the T20 game, The inexperienced Aces combination didn’t manage a win in either of their two matches in the inaugural Abu Dhabi tournament , but the experience in such foreign conditions and amongst such high calibre opposition will have been invaluable to a squad most of whom still very early in their development at the top level.

Indeed it hasn’t been a good fortnight for New Zealand sides in the T20 game, with the White Ferns being beaten convincingly by Australia in their three match series and New Zealand A tumbling to an ignominious defeat against Pakistan A in Dubai, only Tim Seifert and Corey Anderson reaching double figures. The promising feature of that match was the economical bowling of Kyle Jamieson and Blair Tickner, both of whom conceded less than five runs an over, admittedly in a conservative Pakistan chase to overhaul the Kiwis’ meagre total of just 65.

There are more New Zealanders in action in the United Arab Emirates as well, with the Afghanistan Premier League T20 competition under way in Sharjah. At this stage there is again a local player at the top of the run-scoring ladder at a global T20 competition – Anton Devich is averaging 47.8 and has two half-centuries and a top score of 94 not out from his six matches.

Also in the Top Ten run-scorers are Colin Munro and Luke Ronchi, while Mitchell McClenaghan’s five wickets place him just shy of the bowling leader-board, so a good start by the New Zealand contingent.

And we’re also being spoiled by test match action form the same part of the world, Australia playing out a good old-fashioned test match draw against Pakistan, thanks to some fine batting by Usman Khawaja and Tim Paine. In India, the West Indies have started their test against India rather more competitively than they managed through the first encounter, and in Sri Lanka the English side have kicked off their ODI Series with two rain-affected matches. The first suffered too much from the weather to generate a result but Messrs Duckworth and Lewis helped see England home in the second contest in spite of a five wicket haul from Sri Lanka’s veteran opening bowler Lasith Malinga.

If that wasn’t enough, South Africa are on the verge of wrapping up their ODI and T20 series against Zimbabwe.

It might not have felt like it outdoors the last few days, but the cricket season is well and truly here and this week it comes to Auckland and the Outer Oval with the Aces taking on the Stags in the Plunket Shield from Wednesday morning. It’ll be worth a look if you’re able to make it.

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