Musings From Beyond The Boundary – 30 October

It’s been a busy couple of weeks as the New Zealand cricketing calendar has burst into full swing, notwithstanding some unseasonal spring weather along the way. Feel for the Hearts opening their Burger King Super Smash campaign at Lincoln with the thermometer hovering around 10 or 11 degrees and a steady breeze blowing – not ideal conditions for T20 cricket!

For all that, a good start by the Auckland women after their first match had been rained off on Thursday. Friday was a double-header and the Hearts offered up the two best games of the day, beating the Canterbury Magicians by 6 runs in the morning and losing to the Wellington Blaze by just two runs in the afternoon. Ironically at one stage it seemed the Cantabrians would prevail in the first match, while in the second the Hearts looked comfortably placed – in both instances the tables were turned in just the last few overs.

The Otago Sparks were the only team to win both their initial matches, but there is a long way to go in this competition, with the Final scheduled for later in January. For the Hearts, early runs for Sara McGlashan, captain Maddy Green and Katie Perkins. Perkins will have been very disappointed not to have been able to get her side across the line against the Blaze, but her unbeaten 29 from 23 balls was a classy innings, following McGlashan’s earlier 43. Only Otago’s Leigh Kasperek, with the day’s sole half century, managed a higher score across the six matches played on opening day.

With the ball, Arlene Kelly picked up 3 wickets, two in the morning and one in the afternoon, while White Ferns Holly Huddleston and Anna Peterson each came out of the day’s play with a brace of victims.

And speaking of White Ferns, congratulations to Maddy Green, recently appointed vice-captain of the New Zealand side following Suzie Bates’s decision to step back from the captaincy. The White Ferns head to the Caribbean next week for the World T20 competition.

The Aces went down to the Central Stags at Eden Park in their second red-ball outing for the summer. There were runs for Jeet Raval and a maiden Plunket Shield fifty for Finn Allen, but Dane Cleaver’s well-supported century for the Stags put the visitors in a strong position early on and they never relinquished their grasp on the game.

The highlight for the Aces came from Ben Horne, behind the stumps. His six catches in the first innings equalled the Auckland record and with three more in the Stags’ second knock he set a new Auckland record of nine catches in a match. He had shared the prior record of 8 with Brad Cachopa (who achieved this on 3 occasions), Gareth Hopkins (twice), Lou Vincent and Ian Smith.
Incidentally, Horne has had a good start to the Plunket Shield with the bat as well, having been out only once in totalling 86 runs, with a lowest score of 26 not out.

The Aces sit mid-table in the Shield after the first two games. The Stags, with wins in their first two matches, already hold an imposing ten point lead over the second-placed Firebirds, with Northern Districts another couple of points behind them.

Four Day Cricket now takes a back seat as the Ford Trophy kicks off its condensed schedule, the Final being scheduled for 1st December. The Aces did a good job kicking off their defence of the title with an impressive last over victory against a very experienced Northern Districts XI.

Good to see Mitch McClenaghan back in the Aces’ line-up and he clearly enjoyed his return as he removed the top three Northern batsmen to have the visitors stumbling at 42/3. Good batting from Daryl Mitchell (66) and Brett Hampton (with an unbeaten 79 from 52 balls) saw Northern through to a competitive 268. With Trent Boult and Neil Wagner in their attack this was always going to be a tough chase.

It became more so when Auckland were two down after four balls in Boult’s first over. However at the non-striker’s end stood Sean Solia and he chose this afternoon to remind us that he is one of the most attractive stroke players in the country. Well-supported in a string of important partnerships, he was there at the end unbeaten on 133 as Danru Ferns stroked the winning runs with two balls to spare.

The magnitude of Solia’s achievement is highlighted by a glance at the scorecard, which shows skipper Craig Cachopa’s 26 to be the next best aggregate for the innings.

Solia made a stellar start to his Ford Trophy career two summers ago. He scored a scintillating 152 on debut, also against Northern Districts, before consecutive innings of 84 and 70 not out, but he followed up with a quiet season in 2017-18, his highest score being just 31. With the Aces minus several of their experienced batting stars through this competition Solia will have an important role to play at the top of the order, and quite likely with the ball as well. He picked up the last Northern Districts wicket in the Ford Trophy opener, and that came after his handy 3/23 against the Stags in the earlier Plunket Shield encounter.

Meanwhile there has also been plenty to follow from the United Arab Emirates. Great to see Colin Munro’s Balkh Legends take the Afghanistan Premier League T20 competition, winning a low-scoring final against the Kabul Zwanan side featuring fellow Kiwi Luke Ronchi. It wasn’t such a good individual game for the New Zealanders, with Ronchi going for 9 and Munro dismissed first ball. However the win gave Munro the unusual distinction of being part of the winning team in both the Caribbean League and the Afghanistan League, each decided within just a matter of weeks.

The Black Caps will be looking for Munro’s luck to hold as they commence their T20 series against Pakistan in a few days’ time. Pakistan have shown imposing form in both T20 and test matches against Australia and they will be a significant challenge for a New Zealand side coming together on the field for the first time since early April.

After his good T20 form for New Zealand A, Auckland’s Glenn Phillips has been elevated to the Black Caps squad for the shortest format. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to replicate that T20 form in the 50-over contest. New Zealand A went down 3-0, albeit in three competitive matches each of which was decided with less than two overs to spare. Phillips, opening the batting in each, had the unusual distinction of failing to score in all three games, facing just seven balls in the series.

The stand-out batsman for New Zealand A has been Will Young, who followed up two knocks of 40 in the first two matches with a superb run-a-ball 136 in the final match. Young has impressed over a number of seasons, and we were treated to his fine 100 off 101 balls against the Aces at Colin Maiden Park last season. He is a batsman with plenty of shots, a calm temperament, sound defence, and the sort of player whom you can see holding his own at international level. Perhaps that opportunity is now even closer.

From an Auckland perspective, Lockie Ferguson was outstanding in the first of the 50-over games, taking 4/28 in his ten overs. It was nearly a match-winning performance as Pakistan were nine down when they scored the winning runs with just three balls to spare.

Finally this week, a snippet from the 2018 New Zealand Cricket Almanack which has recently landed on the bookshelf: in the 44 test matches which they have played together, Trent Boult has bowled 1,677.1 overs and taken 186 wickets at 26.8, at 2.96 runs per over, while Tim Southee has bowled 1,681.5 overs and taken 172 wickets at 28.6 giving away 2.92 runs per over. These are remarkably similar figures over such a long-running and consistent partnership. This year’s Almanack is very much the same – a remarkable and consistent publication in its 36th year under the stewardship of Francis Payne and Ian Smith.

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