No shortage of good Test Match viewing over the last couple of weeks, and you can add into that Jasprit Bumrah’s opening spell against the West Indies at Sabina Park, inclusive of a high-quality hat-trick comprising numbers three, four and five in the order.
The fireworks came at Headingley, courtesy of Ben Stokes, but that shouldn’t divert attention from Colombo. There we saw an outstanding performance by New Zealand in squaring the series against Sri Lanka after it looked almost a certainty that the only winner would be the weather. And this result came in a series when Kane Williamson was only a place off the bottom of the visitors’ batting chart, averaging just 8.
After a winter away from representative cricket BJ Watling came back and showed why he has such an outstanding record as a ‘keeper-batsman. Tom Latham continued his remarkable run of big hundreds which have made such a contribution to the Black Caps’ cause over the past two years, and Colin de Grandhomme once again played the right innings at the right time, as well as picking up a handy wicket or two.
From an Auckland perspective, a tough Test series for Jeet Raval but a rewarding couple of matches for Will Sommerville. When he returned last year from the U.A.E. he wouldn’t have been the only one to ponder whether he was fated to become a one-Test wonder, but he returns home from Sri Lanka having been an integral part of the Test side and a key contributor.
We may not see him wearing the Black Cap in a home Test match, but he has thoroughly demonstrated his worth, with ball and bat, in Asian conditions. In three Test matches, he now averages 32.5 with the bat and his 14 Test wickets have come at a fraction over 25 runs apiece. The fascinating tale of his well-travelled cricketing career just gets more colourful. And didn’t he bowl some classical off-spinners in Sri Lanka?
In England, Ben Stokes aside, the best-performing New Zealand cricketer over the past couple of weeks has been Rachel Priest who has helped take her Western Storm side to the Final of the Kia Super League with some commanding knocks. Going into the Finals she was the third-highest scorer in the competition with only Indian teenager Jemimah Rodrigues and English international Danni Wyatt having more runs to their names.
It hasn’t just been the runs Priest has scored, but the manner in which she has done so. Against the Surrey Stars, Priest scored 89 from 55 balls, including ten fours and six sixes, and she added a couple of stumpings as well. She particularly enjoyed the Surrey Stars bowling as in the Storm’s other match against the team from south London she scored 44 in 16 balls – out of 48 runs scored while she was at the wicket.
The Surrey Stars haven’t contained their Kiwi opposition through the series, suffering too against the Southern Vipers after Suzie Bates and Danni Wyatt had paired up for a 109-run opening partnership. Bates was out for 39, but Wyatt went on to score 110 from 60 balls.
Bates also scored 47 against the Yorkshire Diamonds, having taken 2/27 with the ball in their earlier encounter. In that match, Leigh Kasperek, who has otherwise had a quiet series, captured an outstanding 4 for 16 from her quota of four overs.
The Vitality Blast T20 competition has also reached its final stages, but with less help of late from the New Zealanders involved. Martin Guptill signed off with Worcestershire to join the Black Caps in Sri Lanka with a 16-ball 27 against the Birmingham Bears, adding 50 for the first wicket with Riki Wessels. Wessels was then joined by Moeen Ali and this pair took their team through to the 188 which brought them victory. Wessels finished on 65 while Ali’s unbeaten 85 occupied only 46 balls.
Birmingham Bears captain Jeetan Patel didn’t enjoy success in that encounter, but he was back with 2/21 from four overs against Northamptonshire. That wasn’t enough to bring his team victory, however, and they have finished well outside Finals contention.
Hamish Rutherford has returned to take Guptill’s place at the top of the order for Worcestershire and he’s given them a couple of bright, but brief starts: 15 off 8 balls against Lancashire and 18 from 13 balls against Northamptonshire.
The competition’s star turn in its latter stages came from England captain Eoin Morgan. With Middlesex chasing down Somerset’s 226/5 Morgan took over with a 29 ball unbeaten 83 which got them across the line. Last season’s Ace Daniel Bell-Drummond was less fortunate – in spite of his 64 his Kent side fell short by one run against Surrey.
It’s been quite a time for retirements with Brendon McCullum hanging up his boots and the South African pair of Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla doing the same – in Steyn’s case from Test cricket at least. Steyn, the fearsome fast bowler with an action that was a joy to watch, and Amla the batsman with all the time in the world and perhaps the most fluent on-drive in the business, were a treat to watch from beyond the boundary. Like McCullum, they have graced the test arena and they will be remembered for much more than their records.
The same can be said of another more recent retiree, the prolific Somerset and England opener Marcus Trescothick, who will leave the stage at the end of the English season. Through his own personal challenges, Trescothick brought attention to the mental battles faced by so many sportsmen, and he certainly contributed to a much broader and more empathetic understanding of the struggles endured by cricketers possibly more than most.
He should first be remembered though for an outstanding career – a Test average of almost 44, a First Class average of more than 41, 66 First Class hundreds and more than 40,000 runs for county and country across the three formats of the game.
Perhaps the most noteworthy pending retirement story though comes from England’s North. At the end of the season, Jamaican immigrant Cecil Wright will step down from the Uppermill side playing in the Pennine Cricket League 2nd XI Championship … at the age of 85.
Wright played a solitary First Class match for Jamaica in 1958, against a Barbados side which included Garry Sobers, Seymour Nurse and Cammie Smith. The following year he moved to England and has played there every season since. His last match will be at his home ground next Sunday.
Image Credit– photosport.co.nz