With the days beginning to lengthen, thoughts of spring had already begun to germinate before the past fortnight brought the prospect of another summer of cricket into full focus.
First, there was the return of Test cricket and a thoroughly absorbing first Test match in Sri Lanka – good to see Will Somerville making a big contribution once again. From the school of obscure statistics, and with thanks to ESPNCricinfo, his second innings 40 not out was the longest (in terms of balls faced) at number 9, 10 or 11 by a visitor in a Test in Sri Lanka. Interestingly, he took the record from Paul Wiseman, another New Zealand off-spinner.
The domestic schedules have been released and we can look forward to plenty of domestic cricket in Auckland, even if the international viewing opportunities are few and far between. The main change to the calendar is a split Ford Trophy, with 50 over cricket in November and then resuming again in late January heading towards a mid-February Final. In between times the Super Smash returns, with plenty of men’s and women’s double-headers all over the country through the holiday period.
And in a summer when international women’s cricket returns to Eden Park over Anniversary Weekend, we also have the opportunity to see Hallyburton Johnstone Trophy action on the Outer Oval when the Hearts take on the Canterbury Magicians in two 50-over matches at the end of November.
It has been a huge week for women’s cricket with the announcement of a women’s T20 competition in the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games coming immediately after the unveiling of the new Master Agreement covering our leading female cricketers over the next three years.
The expanded number of White Ferns’ contracts on offer and the increased remuneration available are major steps forward. Over the last couple of seasons players have been brought into the team from outside the contracted group, creating challenges for cricketers otherwise in full-time employment outside the game.
The increased payment levels won’t make our White Ferns rich, but they should help ease some of the financial pressures on our top players and make it more realistic for them to invest wholeheartedly in their sporting career. The upsides should include even better-prepared teams and increased career longevity.
While the arrival of international and domestic double-headers and televised women’ cricket have brought the women’s game into the public spotlight over recent seasons, women’s cricket has a rich but not always well-known history. New Zealand women played their first Test match in February 1935, just five years after the men had joined the Test-playing fraternity.
In 1966 the New Zealand Women went unbeaten through a twenty-match tour of England. In 1972 they beat Australia in a Test two years before the men accomplished this feat, and they went on to win a Test Series in South Africa, the last official international cricket team to visit the Republic before the demise of apartheid.
In December 2000 they won the Women’s World Cup, two months after the New Zealand men had triumphed over India in the ICC Trophy Final, while Debbie Hockley stands alongside Sir Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe as New Zealand’s three inductees in the ICC’s Cricket Hall of Fame. She is one of only eight women so honoured, recognising a career throughout which she averaged over 52 in 19 Test matches and almost 42 in 118 One Day Internationals.
Throughout the last ninety years, women’s participation has been driven by their heartfelt passion and enthusiasm for the game. This is no better typified than by Joyce Clothier, an opening batsman and wicket-keeper who began her Auckland career in the 1940s and played her last Test match against Australia in March 1961.
A teacher at Putaruru College, she grew up and lived in Matamata and for some seven seasons she used to catch the bus from there to Auckland on a Saturday morning to play club cricket in the afternoon. She would stay the night with friends and catch the Sunday morning bus back to Matamata to play there on a Sunday afternoon. Motivated by her love of cricket, she continued this demanding routine until 1955 when, with her father’s help, she was able to buy a Ford Prefect and drive to Auckland instead.
Elsewhere, in the Northern Hemisphere the Ashes Test Series is a welcome distraction from the surfeit of T20 offerings. Amid rumblings about delays in player payments, the Global T20 Canada came to an exciting conclusion when the Final between the Winnipeg Hawks and the Vancouver Knights was tied – this time the Super Over did decide a winner and Winnipeg took the title. The only local player on show was Otago’s all-rounder Michael Rippon, who conceded 11 runs from his only over.
The top New Zealand performer in the tournament was undoubtedly Ish Sodhi, the leading wicket-taker with 12 at 14.6 each and with an economy rate of 7.95. He was also the only bowler in the competition to capture five wickets in an innings. Best with the bat amongst the New Zealanders was Auckland Ace Colin Munro who hit two half-centuries in averaging almost 34 in his seven matches.
In England, the Vitality Blast has suffered from the poor weather which interrupted the Second Test. It’s been a relatively quiet time for the handful of New Zealanders engaged in the competition although Ace Martin Guptill had 45 against Derbyshire last week. Wellington’s Logan van Beek didn’t make an impact in that match, but he was instrumental in Derbyshire’s earlier victory over Yorkshire, dismissing three of Yorkshire’s top five batsmen in taking 4/17 from 3 overs and chiming in with a run out as well.
For Kent, Adam Milne has turned in some handy spells with 3/21 against Hampshire and 2/35 versus Somerset. And it wouldn’t be a fortnight in English cricket without Jeetan Patel’s name popping up – he had 2/21 from four overs against Yorkshire.
Rain also impacted the Women’s Kia Super League. Suzie Bates, Leigh Kasperek and Rachel Priest are the only New Zealanders in action in this T20 tournament and they have all managed some solid contributions.
Bates had a good double against the Western Storm scoring 33 and taking 2/19 in one ball shy of four overs. Kasperek had 3/25 off four for the Yorkshire Diamonds against the Surrey Stars and subsequently chimed in with 1/23 against the Lancashire Thunder, while most recently Rachel Priest has been in commanding form for the Western Storm.
After a 43-ball 55 against the Loughborough Lightning, she faced 43 balls again from the Yorkshire Diamonds attack, this time finishing unbeaten on 72.
The best T20 performance of recent days came from Leicestershire’s South African born all-rounder Colin Ackerman, who became the first bowler in top-level T20 cricket to take seven wickets, finishing with 7/18 in four overs.
28-year old Ackerman averages 41 with the bat in First Class cricket, but in 90 previous representative T20 matches he had taken only 31 wickets with his off-spinners. He followed up his seven-wicket haul with 3/9 against Derbyshire two games later, so he has claimed almost a quarter of his total T20 wickets in the last three of his 93 games.
The best T20 bowling performance by a New Zealander remains Kyle Jamieson’s 6/7 for Canterbury against the Aces on the Outer Oval last summer. This season he trades the red and black for Auckland’s blue and white, and he will be a welcome addition to the Aces line-up which kicks off its Super Smash campaign at home against the Otago Volts in mid-December.
Image Credit– Photosport.co.nz