Musings from Beyond the Boundary | 10 February

Domestic Cricket

Musings from Beyond the Boundary | 10 February

Praneel HiraDomestic Cricket

Eden Park has done it again, delivering yet another ODI thriller. The BLACKCAPS cast aside their recent travails to seize a series victory which emphasised what worthy World Cup finalists this team were in 2019. 

Last summer, Auckland was starved of international 50-over cricket so it was a special treat for the ground to turn on another classic match to showcase the format. 

50-over cricket offers subtleties and nuances which can’t be found in the T20 game. It provides the scope for thrust and counter-thrust which makes cricket such a fascinating and rewarding game, and it provides an opportunity for players to display a wider depth of skills, talent and temperament. Saturday night at Eden Park epitomised those qualities. 

The only disappointment was the meagre crowd. With Auckland bereft of Test cricket, we don’t need to lose ODI matches as well, particularly given Eden Park’s history of producing nail-biting encounters spiced with outstanding individual performances. 

There have been suggestions that ticket-prices are an issue. Three men’s and two women’s international matches in 16 days, prices higher than recent seasons, a team struggling to win consistently and a customer base having to manage the family budget have probably all contributed. 

Perhaps we need to recognise that cricket will never be able to command anything like the ticket prices charged in England and Australia, and the challenge is to identify the sweet spot which maximises attendance while fulfilling revenue requirements. Many a marketer in all sorts of businesses struggles with this equation! 

Nevertheless, those who didn’t make it to Eden Park missed a wonderful evening’s entertainment. Once again we saw that there are fewer better sights in world cricket than Martin Guptill batting at the top of his game, and who knows how far he may have gone on, had he not been run out. 

The capable Henry Nicholls showed once again the calm competence which he is beginning to show with increasing frequency in his new role at the top of the 50-over batting order. New Zealand’s victories in Hamilton and Auckland were built on the platform created by his opening partnerships with Guptill. 

Tom Latham looked energetic, imaginative and comfortable in his role at the helm and Colin de Grandhomme begged the question again as to why he wasn’t used more frequently at the bowling crease in the T20 series. Hopefully, Tim Southee’s crucial performance under such difficult circumstances will also have quietened some of the less knowledgeable critics whom we hear too much from on social media. 

Kyle Jamieson enjoyed the sort of debut of which dreams are made, playing with intelligence, maturity and skill. He wore his heart on his sleeve and showed us all what success with bat and ball meant to him. One suspects he may have stepped ahead of several better-known names in the queue for future Test and ODI selection. 

Then there was Ross Taylor – last week after his innings in Hamilton he was being described as a New Zealand ‘Living Legend’ and at Eden Park he did nothing to suggest himself unworthy of such a moniker. His durability and enduring talent have been quite remarkable. 

He first represented the New Zealand Under-19 side against South Africa in 2001/02, a year before playing in the Under-19 World Cup and there’s some irony that on debut he found himself run out, for 59. Incidentally, that South African Under-19 team included Hashim Amla, another quiet over-achiever who has similarly won admiration and respect wherever he has played. 

All going to plan, Taylor will next week become the first international cricketer ever to play 100 matches in each of the Test, ODI and T20 formats. It is a distinction that will be honoured and celebrated around the cricketing world. 

Enthusiasts of One Day Cricket have another treat in store this coming weekend with the ACES securing their first home Ford Trophy Final since the 2014-15 season, when they lost to Central Districts. Only four of that side are in contention to play this time around – Craig Cachopa, Robbie O’Donnell, Colin Munro and Glenn Phillips. 

Spare a thought for the selectors – international calls and injuries have meant that eighteen players have turned out for the ACES in the first nine rounds of the Ford Trophy, and almost all of them will be available for Sunday’s Final, meaning some tough decisions in finalising the playing eleven. 

It has been quite a season for the ACES, underwritten by some sparkling team and individual performances. Six times in nine games they have scored more than 280, and against Canterbury, at Hagley Oval, they stacked up 401/8. Up until the start of this summer, only five teams had scored more in an innings. 

Martin Guptill, Glenn Phillips, Ben Horne, Jeet Raval and Colin Munro (twice), have scored Ford Trophy centuries this season. Robbie O’Donnell has contributed four half-centuries. Ben Lister has twice taken five wickets in an innings, including a career-best 6/51 against Northern Districts last week. Lockie Ferguson bagged 5/38 in an early match against Central Districts and Will Somerville claimed 4/48 against Canterbury. 

Barring Test call-ups, Somerville is likely to be the only one of those names not putting their hand up to play this weekend. Sadly he has been sidelined by an ankle injury aggravated in the Sydney Test match which will put him out of action for the balance of the season. 

The ACES last won the Ford Trophy two seasons ago when they beat the Central Stags in New Plymouth. Recent 50-over Finals have developed a reputation for pulsating, exciting cricket and tense finishes, so it would be a good idea not to miss this year’s big occasion. Having finished second in the Dream 11 Super Smash, this is the ACES’ opportunity to secure their season’s first silverware.