In June 2014 I was privileged to be a guest in the Presidents’ Suite at Kensington Oval, Barbados, as New Zealand beat the West Indies in the third Test and took the Test series 2-1. As well as the opportunity to meet and talk with some of the ‘greats’ of West Indian cricket (our host, the President of the Barbados Cricket Association, was Joel Garner) we also met many wonderfully hospitable and passionate Barbados cricket enthusiasts.
They were very generous in defeat, and almost philosophical about the challenges West Indies cricket was facing, but you could also feel their deep regret that the game was no longer as it was when our host had been in his pomp and the West Indians had sat atop the cricketing world. More than this, their concern for the future of the game across the Caribbean was transparent and somewhat alarming.
It was hard not to think of all our Kensington Oval friends this last week as the West Indies so comprehensively beat England. I can imagine the sheer joy amongst the local guests in the President’s Suite on this occasion – what a heart-warming few days it will have been for Barbados’s cricketing faithful.
In that game back in 2014 a tall young all-rounder called Jason Holder was making his test debut. He scored 38 and 52, an innings which for a while looked capable of thwarting New Zealand’s push for victory. Earlier Ross Taylor had become his first test wicket. The woman who drove us to the ground each day had coached him as a ten-year-old and she was bursting with pride at his ascension to the Test team, while our friends in the President’s Suite were full of hope that his potential would be fully realised.
How they would have felt last week as Holder led from the front to ensure his team earned a victory of historic proportions, helped in no small part by his countrymen Kemar Roach and Roston Chase. And now he has led them to an unexpectedly convincing series victory. Once again Barbados can lay claim to being the home of the game’s top all-rounder.
Back in New Zealand, the Indian men and women were proceeding through the country like two well-oiled and superbly-tuned machines – until they reached Hamilton. Prior to that, the similarities between the men’s and women’s series were uncanny – India’s superb top-order batting, accurate, aggressive bowling marked by its variety, and, particularly in the men’s case, equally aggressive fielding. Neither of the home teams seemed to have an answer to the visitors’ relentless superiority.
Then Thursday and Friday in the Waikato it all turned topsy-turvy, with the Black Caps and the White Ferns both dominating the visitors in a manner completely belying the earlier results.
On Thursday it was Trent Boult and Colin de Grandhomme putting their side in such a position that Henry Nicholls and Ross Taylor could guide them home before dinner.
On Friday Anna Peterson and Lea Tahuhu led the way in dismissing the star-studded Indian women’s line-up, before Suzie Bates and the sublime Amy Satterthwaite did the business with the bat.
If there was any disappointment in the White Ferns’ performance it was that Lauren Down was so unluckily run out after such a compelling start to the New Zealand run chase, and that Katie Perkins, finally returning to the playing XI, missed out on getting a bat due to the dominance of those ahead of her on the scorecard.
Another entertaining afternoon at the Outer Oval on Saturday as the Aces took down the high-flying Northern Knights in the Burger King Super Smash. After Tim Seifert’s early dismissal Nick Kelly and Dean Brownlie, still such an attractive batsman to watch, gave the Knights a rollicking start. However the Aces were able to pull back the early scoring rate and chip away at the long Northern batting line-up. All six bowlers used picked up a wicket, and while five batsmen got to 27, none passed 37. 196/8 was a solid score but you felt the Aces would have taken that at the start of the day.
Neil Wagner did Glenn Phillips with a beauty early on, but a run-hungry Colin Munro began to look far more composed than he has done recently on television and Mark Chapman also looked in good touch as Auckland went past 50 in five overs. Then Chapman fell to Ish Sodhi and that brought the skipper, Craig Cachopa, to the crease.
A couple of weeks ago Cachopa played what proved to be a match-winning innings against the Otago Volts, and now when it was most required he did it again, playing his way into the Top Ten run-scorers of the competition at the same time.
If there was any doubt as to how important Colin Munro saw his innings it was very clear in his body language when he was caught by Dean Brownlie for a 30-ball 56. He looked as disappointed as the crowd, who were settling in for what was beginning to look like another inevitable Munro hundred.
Fortunately Robbie O’Donnell was able to pick up where his team-mate had left off and he and Cachopa added 98 in a couple of balls more than 8 overs to take the Aces to the brink of a victory which Daniel Bell-Drummond sealed with four balls to spare. This week Cachopa had scored 60 from 39 deliveries – his last two knocks on the Outer Oval have produced 133 runs from just 77 balls – leading from the front.
If the Knights took away an area to work on it will be the discipline of the bowlers – the Aces bowled three wides in the Northern innings, the Knights bowled 13 wides, and four of those were amongst the last seven balls delivered in a match that went down to the wire.
Next weekend the Aces are at home again, playing the Stags to determine which team will have home-ground advantage in the subsequent play-off to see who meets the Knights in the Super Smash Final.
Finally news in recent days that 68-year-old Ewen Chatfield has hung up his boots and will turn out no more for his beloved Naenae Club in the Hutt Valley. There can be few cricketers anywhere in the world who have earned the sort of universal respect in which Chatfield is held – one of those rare men for whom a negative word is never spoken. Of course he’ll be remembered for his metronomic bowling, and the superb foil he became for Richard Hadlee at the other end. But he’ll also be remembered for seeing Jeremy Coney and New Zealand home to a two wicket victory over Pakistan at Carisbrook, coming in to bat after Lance Cairns had retired hurt with a blow to the head.
Then there was the most frightening moment in New Zealand Test Cricket history as he lay on the turf at Eden Park, convulsing and requiring mouth-to mouth resuscitation after edging a shortish delivery from England’s Peter Lever into the side of his head. That was his Test debut, and thankfully he survived to play another 42 Tests, and for another 43 years.
And has any other New Zealand opening bowler had a well-known local band named after him – you may have heard of the Naenae Express before…
Image Credit: Photosport.co.nz.