Friday, November 30, 2012

Six quick singles – Munro goes long

Central Districts humbled Otago by 10 wickets, Auckland and Wellington took part in a run-fest on the Eden Park Outer Oval, records were amassed like a ‘70s DJ building his collection, but it was all irrelevant. All anyone will remember was a large double hundred in Kingsland, Colin Munro putting on a master class unrivalled in the City of Sails.

Central Districts 476 (C Cachopa 123, T Nethula 108, A Milne 97, B Soper 3/116, I Butler 3/132; 127.2 overs) and 21/0 (4.5 overs) defeated Otago 257 (S Wells 78, I Butler 73, P Trego 3/57, A Milne 5/47; 73.5 overs) and 239 (A Redmond 57, H Rutherford 55, A Mathieson 5/39, C Cachopa 3/28; 98.0 overs following on) by 10 wickets at McLean Park, Napier.

Wellington 380 (J Ryder 72, L Ronchi 127, M McClenaghan 4/90; 95.2 overs) and 145/2 (J Brodie 60*; 42.0 overs) drew with Auckland 658/9 decl. (C Munro 269*, C Cachopa 166, M Gillespie 4/166; 147.5 overs) at Eden Park Outer Oval, Auckland.

Manu’s herculean knock
25 year old Colin Munro has always had an innate ability to hit a long ball – finding a balance that allowed him to show that skill in the first class game has been harder to harness. His batting master class at the Garden showed he has a special talent, let’s hope we see plenty more of it.

The former New Zealand Under 19 representative displayed his prodigious talent on the Outer Oval, drawing applause, smiles and the occasional “roar” from the small band of fans, and players, gathered on the newly redeveloped ground. Munro’s 269 not out broke more records than Eastern Bloc athletes in the 1980s – thankfully for Auckland Cricket, Manu’s won’t need to be erased.

In a career that started with so much promise against Canterbury early in the 2006/7 season, Munro has only appeared in whites for Auckland on 15 occasions – this season’s form is slowly working to right that self-inflicted wrong. For all the disappointment, he’s gone past 50 on six occasions in 19 knocks – three have ended in triple figures. He is quickly closing in on 1,000 first class runs at nearly 55, all achieved with a strike rate in excess of 80. Unfortunately, feast or famine doesn’t sit well with cricket selectors, ask Mathew Sinclair. This season he’s putting his best foot forward more regularly. Munro sits second in the Plunket Shield aggregates after an early season 103 in Napier – his 446 runs sees him 20 shy of Carl Cachopa, and he’s averaging a shade under 150! That he has only batted four times, while his South African mate has strapped on the pads on seven occasions, puts his dominance into perspective.

When Munro joined his skipper Gareth Hopkins in the middle, after Reece Young had become the fourth top order batsman to get out after working hard for a start, Auckland’s innings was in the balance at 4/173. When Hopkins declared seven and a half hours later, Munro had presided over the addition of 487 runs in just 96 overs – spectators would be happy to see those figures in an ODI.

Munro looked resolute throughout, a mix of relaxed surety and unbridled aggression, though he was seldom troubled. He struck at about 90 throughout his innings, though once he had moved past a maiden double hundred, he truly freed his arms. Munro’s fifth half century, to take him to 250, took just 31 balls, as the cars on Sandringham Road became moving targets for the powerful left hander.

Whether 444 minutes can change the course of a career is yet to be seen - the remainder of Munro’s season will hold the key to his long term future, but for those lucky enough to be at the Outer Oval, there will be few domestic knocks that evoke the delight of Munro’s midweek mayhem. 

Mates make hay
Batting with a true friend is one of cricket’s infinite pleasures – to do it successfully is a rare treat. South African born mates Colin Munro and Craig Cachopa enthralled the sprinkling of spectators at Eden Park’s Outer Oval on their way to an Auckland record sixth wicket partnership of 377, but those who attended watched the young pair wield the willow as though they were having a back yard knock around at a family barbeque.

Auckland’s top four all perished in the thirties and forties – another day it may have cost their side dearly. The failings of their contemporaries gave the young pair centre stage - a chance to shine on a deck with no demons, and they filled their boots.

When 20 year old Craig Cachopa joined Munro, Auckland has lost two wickets in six balls, and was looking in trouble at 5/174. 80 overs later at least one result had been removed from the equation; unfortunately, rain narrowed it to one. Both young men built on solid starts, showing their more experienced contemporaries what it means to convert. Their Auckland team mates may have enjoyed the fireworks but a few would have been disappointed at missing the opportunity for a lengthy stay on a section of Sandringham Road that was waylaid on the Outer Oval.

Munro’s efforts are well documented above, but his younger mate also moved his career forward with a big hundred. Cachopa’s 166 easily surpassed his previous best of 82, compiled in the last round against ND on the same ground. In just his sixth first class innings, the youngest of the Cachopa trio nearly doubled his career aggregate and took his average past 50. With middle sibling Bradley developing for Canterbury, the brothers’ prodigious talent is having a definite effect on New Zealand Cricket – it now seems a question of how many of the three will make the step up to international honours, not if. Time will tell…

CD bowlers to the fore – with the blade
Adam Milne looks like he was born with a cricket ball in his hand, as the season progresses his ability with the willow is just as pronounced. After featuring in a record tenth wicket partnership with ‘keeper Ben Smith against Northern Districts in the previous round, Milne moved up the order two places joining forces with Tarun Nethula to again destroy the opposition with a lower order counter attack.

The pair came together at 7/269 and spent more than 30 overs together frustrating an Otago line-up that was circling for the kill – the two young Central bowlers turned the tide, helping their side to a winning position they never relinquished.

Nethula, down on confidence after touring the Caribbean and India, showed none of the trepidation that has plagued his game with ball in hand, building his way to his maiden first class century. His first innings 108 took him 50 clear of his previous best – he’ll hope he doesn’t have to wait until 38 matches to raise his bat in joy again.

His 133 run eighth wicket stand with Milne turned the game, setting a new record against a tiring Otago. Milne passed 50 before Nethula succumbed; going past the career-high 38 he scored an innings earlier at Harry Barker Reserve. Lamb and Mathieson held on for 95 balls to give the young quick a shot at an improbable hundred, but the vigil ended when Milne was last man out – LBW to ex-international Ian Butler for 97. Given the way Milne started with ball, Butler would have been better to feed Milne a gentle half volley and let him raise three figures.

Milne dismissed Rutherford and Bracewell with the final two balls of his opening over to leave Otago floundering at 2/3. Aaron Redmond survived the hat trick, but only lasted until Milne’s fourth over in what was the beginning of the end for Otago’s innings. Milne finished with 5/47 off 14 very quick overs – Otago’s confidence was destroyed, their second innings folded, and they succumbed again, losing by ten wickets before drinks on day four.
  • CD’s overseas professional, Somerset’s Peter Trego, played his debut first class game for his adopted province.
  • Carl Cachopa struck his third century of the season, with 123 for Central Districts – his season aggregate of 466 runs sits atop the heap. 
  • Leggie Tarun Nethula recorded his maiden first class hundred, 108, in Central’s first innings. It was his second time past 50 in 38 first class matches, eclipsing his previous best of 58.
  • Nethula starred in a fine partnership with Adam Milne, who was unlucky to be dismissed for 97. It was his first half century after previously not getting past 38.
  • Milne and Nethula joined forces to set a new Central Districts eighth wicket partnership against Otago. The pair amassed 133 - bettering the 113 set by Ross Taylor and Robert Schaw in 2006/7. Their partnership is still comfortably short of the CD record against all comers held by two former internationals, Ian Smith and Gary Robertson – 173 against Northern Districts in 1982/83.
  • Central quick Adam Milne bettered his previous best first class bowling figures of 4-49 to claim his first five wicket bag as he decimated the Otago first innings with a fiery 5/47 off 14 overs.
  • CD medium pacer Andrew Mathieson sounded the death knell for Otago with 5/39 off 20 overs in their second innings. His previous best was 3/71. 
  • Mathieson also bettered his previous best first class score of nine when he was left stranded 11 not out in Central’s first innings.
  • Ian Butler’s first innings knock of 73 not out for Otago, batting at 9, was his highest first class score, going past the 68 he made for Kent against Surrey in the 2004 County Championship.   
  • Dannevirke born West Australian Luke Ronchi struck his second Plunket Shield century (in just four matches) with 127 in Wellington’s first innings. It was his eighth first class hundred after six in the West Island, including one for Australia "A". 
  • Warwickshire’s Chris Woakes, in New Zealand to play for Wellington in the HRV Cup, made his first class debut for the capital side – he fell just short of 50, but it’s a game he’d rather forget. It was a long way from the joy of the Bears’ 2012 County Championship victory.
  • Not a milestone but an intriguing anomaly – Wellington’s first innings total of 380 took exactly the same number of minutes.
  • Auckland’s first innings 658/9 is the fifth highest Plunket Shield total. However, it was still well short of Canterbury’s mammoth 777 Canterbury against Otago in the Shell Trophy final at Lancaster Park in 1996/97. 
  • It was also the third highest first class total for Auckland after the 1939/40 side struck 693/9 against Canterbury.  
  • It went well clear of the previous best for Auckland against Wellington - 522 at the Basin Reserve in 1918/19. 
  • Colin Munro’s 269 not out took him to the second highest first class score for Auckland, moving past team mate Tim McIntosh’s 268. Gareth Hopkins declared denying Munro the opportunity to challenge Bill Munro’s 290. Munro, a dual rugby and cricket international, played only four seasons of first class cricket in the late 1930s before he tragically died at sea at the age of 28, in the service of his country.
  • Munro’s knock is the highest at the Eden Park Outer Oval.
  • His 269 not out is well clear of the previous best for an Auckland number six – 155 for Adam Parore against Otago in 1991/92.
  • Craig Cachopa struck his highest first class score of 166 – his maiden first class century, well clear of the 82 he struck in the previous round against ND at the Garden.
  • Auckland’s sixth wicket partnership of 377 between Munro and Cachopa was the highest partnership for any wicket against Wellington – brushing aside the 241 Jeff Crowe and Trevor Franklin compiled for the second wicket at the Basin in 1988/89.
  • It also set a new record for Auckland’s highest sixth wicket partnership against all comers. Current team mates, Martin Guptill and Colin de Grandhomme, hit 211 last season against Canterbury in Rangiora.
  • Munro hit 14 sixes in his mammoth knock, leaving him just one behind JR Reid’s 15 in his knock of 296 for Wellington against Northern Districts in 1962/63. Another New Zealander, Jesse Ryder, holds the world record for sixes in a first class match with Andrew Symonds and Graeme Napier, all of whom cleared the rope 16 times.
  • Bat continues to dominate ball – Craig Cachopa’s ton was the 25th century of the season in just 10 matches.

Plunket Shield’s Jekyll and Hyde?
The current Otago side is an enigma – it has a group of talented youngsters mixed with some experienced older heads who continue to get better with age, yet they struggle to put a performance together as a team. Similarly, their deeds within matches stretch from the sublime to the comical – it has more rises and falls than a Himalayan skyline. Where one aspect of their game succeeds, another falls flat and costs them the opportunities they’ve built.

The Southern lads got off to a flying start with an outright victory over rivals Canterbury in the opening round on the back of consecutive hundreds from Aaron Redmond. However, there were few other contributions in the first innings, Redmond’s effort papering over the cracks in the rest of the line-up.

However, there has been little to sing about since the end of the Northern Districts’ first innings in the following match. A fine bowling performance first up gave way for one that lacked any penetration as Corey Anderson and Daniel Flynn amassed 283 for the fourth wicket taking ND to a mammoth 6/533 as Otago stumbled through most of the two middle days. At 6/122 midway through the final day, only some much-needed application from Neil Broom and Mark Craig stole Otago a draw when they looked set for a humiliating defeat.

The return match against Canterbury at Dunedin’s University Oval flattered to deceive. A low scoring affair, both sides has opportunities to win the match in the final hour, and neither would have been overly satisfied with the draw. Though neither side excelled through the first three and a half days, Otago went into the final hour, and a minimum 15 overs, needing just 65 runs with five wickets in hand – all the cards were stacked firmly in their favour. However, two quick wickets early in the final stanza and the tail enders were left to shut up shop and ensure they at least escaped with a draw.

So to Napier, and the slide continued against Central Districts, a 10 wicket loss further denting the confidence of a side with boundless promise. After having CD in trouble early, Nethula and Milne showed the sort of determination with the willow that has often been absent from the blue and golds.

For all that, Otago sit in in second place, 30 points behind runaway leaders Central Districts (on 63), thanks to a hatful of bowling points. Every start, every step ahead they get, Otago seem to be incapable of taking the advantage - the talent is obvious but dips in confidence stymie it.

Will the slide continue against Auckland or will the deeds of a few bolster the conviction of many?

Rain, rain, go away
Auckland’s golden summer ruined any chance of an outright result at Eden Park – that rain hasn’t wrecked other early season fixtures is a rarity. Though the odds favoured a draw, Auckland will be disappointed at missing out on the opportunity to push for valuable points. Pressure does funny things to cricket sides and Wellington has a fragility about their batting that belies the talent in their side.  While the Outer Oval road showed few signs of wear, a couple of early wickets and Auckland would have been in the box seat against the lads from the capital.  Regardless of what transpired on the final day, the match will always be remembered for Colin Munro’s masterful 269 not out.

Tell me what you think – I’d love your thoughts. The Plunket Shield continues to offer cricket fans some compelling cricket – it’s a pity we no longer have the chance to listen to it. Post a comment below or tweet me @aotearoaxi. 


  1. This is a quality blog - keep it up.

    Just an edit required in the bullet point about Luke Ronchi. He scored a ton on debut for the Firebirds in round 10 last year v the CD Stags at Karori Park, so this was his second century for Wellington.

    Interested to know what the record is for most centuries in a FC domestic season in New Zealand? 2.5 per match (in November no less} on average is exceedingly high and bat makers must be as busy as a 1980s East German chemist at the moment.

    Also, I'm overseas at the moment. Is Radio Sport still ignoring cricket? If so, who or what type of person listens to Radio Sport at this time of the year?


    1. Cheers, Harry, and thanks for the correction. I try to check the numbers but writing late into the night means one or two slip through. A bit more of a look shows he's got two centuries in jsut four matches/six innings for Wellington - he may be in international contention sooner than he thought.

      I was asked about the century count by someone else but I haven't been able to see anything in the Almanack with a quick look - I'll keep searching.

      Radio Sport has 20 minute updates during the Plunket Shield, but is covering the HRV Cup every Friday night - summer just isn't the same when the cricket isn't on the wireless. The most disappointing was that there was no coverage from the SL tour - rights were apparently too much. At times, they would do well to remember that they launched on the back of cricket coverage, though it's a commercial decision.

    2. Harry, I did a little research while watching the test from the WACA. The record number of FC centuries in a NZ summer (including during home tests) is 84 in 2008/9. Last season realised 58, including 8 in the tests against ZIM and SA), the previous a mere 37. I hadn't realised quite how prodigious domestic batsmanship was last season.

  2. What do you think is the reason for big hundreds from a number of top order batsmen so early in the season? An ex-Otago batsman here suggested it could be due to better pitch preparation. Is there some conscious effort from all teams towards batting long hours?

    1. Definitely better pitch preparation. Most decks are prepared like roads now. Even University Oval in Dunedin, a minefield just a few seasons ago, has improved I heard? Similarly, they don't play at too many out of it centres any more. Apparently Memorial Park in Masterton, a common FC venue back in the day, was a glorified paddock some seasons. Now CD just play at Napier, NP and Nelson.

      Other key factors include the rise of T20 cricket and the much faster scoring of the last few years, expectations that an 80 or even a 100 is not good enough and players are more motivated than ever to keep going, the change last year in the Plunket Shield points system that encourages more positive play and of course the improvement in bat technology.

      On the latter, I was watching some old school cricket highlights the other day and the blades themselves were like weaklings. Compare and contrast a Jeremy Coney double scooper versus a modern Gray Nichols bat!


    2. Thank you!

      University Oval is certainly not a minefield these days. But neither did it offer much to the faster men during the last FC game there.

      Interesting you say there's some focus on keeping it to the centres. Molyneux Park in Alexandra has just regained it first class status and there's some keen interest on having first class games there next season onwards.

    3. Thanks for all the comments, lads. That Plunket Shield is being spoken about at all great. I would like to see first class cricket taken to the smaller centres but finances often don't allow it. The returns on investment to host a Plunket Shield match make it a drain on the resources of cricket associations in small provinces. CD used to share matches between Wanganui's Victoria Park, Palmerston North's Fitzherbert Park, Pukekura Park, Masterton's QEII, ocassionally in Levin (sorry, the name escapes me), Nelson and Napier just off the top of my head. There were some fantastic wickets but seeing the amount of time and money spent on four days of cricket and a handful of spectators just wasn't worth it.

      Re the bats - I'd have loved to have use one of the weapons they use today!

  3. Watched a bit of Munro in the Aces games over the last two editions of the Champions League. He didn't look all that great, but I see his first class and List A stats are pretty good. I wonder if the longer forms, where the field is usually up, suit his style better. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on him.

    Assuming the comments about better pitch preparation above are correct, I think it's been a good thing for both first-class and NZ cricket. The seam bowling stocks appear to have drastically improved as a result, where the previous decade seemed to be all about medium pacers in the Brent Arnel mould. Hopefully the batsmen are benefiting in turn.

  4. you are totally right about Colin Munro, he has natural skills to hit a long ball and I think that he is at the right age to develop and take advantage of that skill


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