The final pre-Christmas round involved all six sides and there were more highlights than Willie Watson bowling to a young Sachin Tendulkar. Records tumbled, as did wickets, and the ball was despatched to, and over, the fence on a regular basis. Players with international experience, whether local or foreign, shone through in every match. The Plunket Shield now takes a break for a month to allow for the HRV Cup to dominate the holiday period – for those who complain, think for a minute where the money comes from to finance our domestic game.
Canterbury 405/9 decl. (D Brownlie 75, T Astle 50, G Andrew 180*, K Mills 5/109; 119.0 overs) and 120 (K Mills 5/38, B Martin 5/45; 43.2 overs) lost to Auckland 307 (P Mustard 55, G Hopkins 122*, K Mills 70, R McCone 5/56; 93.3 overs) and 219/3 (T McIntosh 77*, C Cachopa 57; 43.4 overs) by 7 wickets at Eden Park Outer Oval, Kingsland
Otago 427 (A Redmond 63, R ten Doeschate 118, S Wells 63, M Craig 63, N Wagner 68, A Patel 4/86; 111.3 overs) and 227/4 decl. (N Wagner 65, R ten Doeschate 54*; 80.0 overs) drew with Central Districts 449 (J How 64, C Cachopa 55, M Sinclair 142, N Wagner 4/103; 127.1 overs) at University Oval, Dunedin
Northern Districts 403/8 decl. (T Southee 156, J Patel 3/102; 87.1 overs) and 196/4 (K Williamson 121*; 47.1 overs) beat Wellington 206 (L Ronchi 113, T Southee 5/69, B Arnel 3/62; 45.2 overs) and 390 following on (L Ronchi 108, S Kuggeleijn 83, I Sodhi 5/128; 98.1 overs) by 6 wickets at Karori Park, Wellington
100 in 100th, on debut…
Outside of Essex, Ryan ten Doeschate is known more as a T20 mercenary than a first class stalwart, as he pops up in every conceivable corner of the cricketing world touting his wares in the game’s shortest format – but the man can bat.
100 first class matches is nothing to be sneered at, a feat that few in the New Zealand game have ever reached without playing regularly at test level. Ten Doeschate has played 91 matches for Essex and a further eight for the Netherlands – his 100th match was his Otago debut as he helped out the Plunket Shield’s Jekyll and Hyde side while enjoying a Kiwi summer and crossing another side off his T20 list. South African born, ten Doeschate has played domestic T20 in six countries – Otago is his second side in this country.
Besides Canterbury and Otago, the 32 year old has also taken his bat and travelled to England, South Africa, India, Zimbabwe and Australia. If the Bangladesh Premier League can iron out its financial woes, West Indies realise the potential of a domestic league in the Caribbean and Cricket Holdings America LLC finally get a professional tournament off the ground in the “land of the free”, ten Doeschate’s passport will collect more stamps than the most ardent philatelist. There are few better travelled cricketers, and by all accounts he is an asset both on and off the pitch, offering sage advice to anyone willing to pull up a pew.
Given his efforts in his Otago debut, ten Doeschate may play more first class cricket on his numerous jaunts to foreign lands. By the time he was run out for 118 in Otago’s first innings, the Netherlands’ international had raised his blade for his 19th first class century. He backed it up with 54 not out in the second innings but sadly it wasn’t enough to earn him the victory he richly deserved.
During the course of his first knock, ten Doeschate raised his 6,000th first class run – all at an average of 47.89. Ten Doeschate becomes the second player to celebrate his first class century with a ton in 2012/13 – his Otago team mate Aaron Redmond kicked off the Plunket Shield season with a century in each innings.
More babies please, Tim
With his partner due to be induced on the Friday after completion of the match, New Zealand Cricket should ensure Mrs Southee (though I’m not sure if the pair are married, player’s private lives don’t interest me) has a child straight after every major series at home if this is how Tim Southee is going to play when she’s ready to pop. As Jesse Ryder had done for Wellington earlier in the Plunket Shield, Southee singlehandedly turned the fortunes of the lads from the ‘Tron.
At Karori Park, Southee crashed the ball to every part of the ground on day one. His 156, off 130 balls, included 18 boundaries and a powerful six sixes. He easily went past his previous first class best of 77 not out, off 40 balls, on test debut – his best since then was a score of 75 for Northern Districts. Southee’s maiden century was only his fourth time past 50, two of them for New Zealand – it illustrates just how much the international game takes our top players away from our domestic competitions.
Southee rounded out day one by reducing a strong Wellington batting line-up to 4/32, taking all four wickets for 16 runs in his five overs. He finished with 5/69 to help force the follow-on and put another nail in Wellington’s coffin. His century followed by a five wicket haul in the same match is only the second time the feat has been achieved for Northern Districts – Southee’s provincial coach, Grant Bradburn, was the first, also against Wellington, in 2000/01.
The 24 year old Northlander made his first class debut for Northern Districts in 2007 as an 18 year old – a year later he had played for New Zealand in all three international formats. Southee began his test career with aplomb, taking five wickets on his international debut in the final test against England at Napier in 2007/08, running a scythe through an England line-up that his more experienced peers had struggled to crack. He rounded out a poor New Zealand effort with 77 not out in a heavy loss, but then showed little else for the next three seasons. We saw glimpses of genius mixed with periods that reflected his relative youth and inexperience. As with so many cricketers who learn their trade at the highest level, the potential tag they acquire when they set out can quickly become a noose set to strangle the life out of a promising career.
2012 has been a coming of age year – early hiccups overcome, he ends the year as the established leader of New Zealand’s bowling pack. Southee managed just two wickets in a comprehensive victory over fellow strugglers Zimbabwe, and went wicketless in his sole test (of three) against South Africa. He then missed both series openers against West Indies and India, only remaining in the Caribbean after Mark Gillespie was injured in New Zealand prior to boarding the plane.
However, the second Indian test in Bangalore was the start of the rebirth of Timothy Grant Southee. His record breaking 7/64 didn’t change New Zealand’s fortunes but the same can’t be said of the man himself – not since Shane Bond have Kiwis watched their country just to see the premier pace man at work.
In a burgeoning test career, Southee has amassed just 65 wickets at an average of 35.04. Striking at 62.04, he has captured three five wicket hauls. Through the 2012 calendar year, he has captured 25 test wickets at 22.64, improving his strike rate to 43.8. However, the recent purple patch since his inclusion in India is Hadlee-like, albeit he’ll need to continue in the same vein for more than a decade to even come close to New Zealand’s premier cricketer. In that period, Southee has taken 20 wickets for just 298 runs for an average of 14.9 in the five innings. After the heroics against India, Southee led his side to victory in the final test against Sri Lanka – his eight wickets in the match helping New Zealand to draw the series by winning a test in Sri Lanka for the first time in 14 years.
A thumb injury now means Southee won’t join his compatriots in South Africa – the effect of his absence on the New Zealand side will be palpable. New Zealand supporters can at least console themselves with the fact he’ll be back for England’s tour.
However, I hope the rumours of his ascension to the vice-captaincy are wrong. Kane Williamson has been groomed as the next skipper and should get the role for the tests as least, leaving Southee to concentrate on taking his career to the next level – that’s the best thing he can do to move his side off the bottom rung of the ladder.
An Australian to don the black cap?
In recent years there has been an influx of South African born players in the Plunket Shield and slowly they’re making their mark on the international stage – van Wyk, Watling, Wagner and Munro amongst them. Three of the domestic provinces have South African born wicketkeepers – de Boorder joining his two international peers.
However, Australian born Luke Ronchi is keen to throw a Dingo amongst the Springboks. During 2008 and 2009 Ronchi represented Australia in seven limited overs internationals, but no further opportunities forced him to look to the country of his birth. He becomes eligible for New Zealand in January and given his form since throwing his lot behind the silver fern, he has stood head and shoulders above his more established contemporaries.
The Dannevirke born 31 year old returned home to play for Wellington and has quickly put himself into contention. In the match against Northern Districts, Ronchi became the first New Zealand wicketkeeper to score a century in each innings of a first class match and then take 6 catches in an innings – that he did it in an innings where only eight wickets fell and his side was comprehensively outplayed make it more remarkable.
In Wellington’s first innings Ronchi struck 113 off 94 batting at number eight in a paltry total of 206. Coming in a place higher in the second innings, Ronchi was a little slower taking 119 balls for his 108 as Wellington got through to 390. He at least got support from the lower order, numbers six through 10 compiling 296 of their side’s runs.
Ronchi’s double took his first class century tally to ten, four of those in the Plunket Shield. Only four other batsmen have doubled up for Wellington – Robert Vance, Martin Crowe, Jason Wells, and Jesse Ryder earlier this season. Since debuting in Wellington’s penultimate match of the 2011/12 Plunket Shield season, Ronchi has played in six matches (and nine innings) for the capital side. He has gone to triple figures on four occasions, amassing 552 runs at an astonishing average of 78.85, after he started his New Zealand domestic career with 111 on debut. On current form that should be enough to play him into the test side as a batsman alone.
More concerning is his previous numbers in the Australian domestic game, not because of their reflection of Ronchi but on the New Zealand game. In 57 State Shield matches for Western Australia Ronchi hit just five centuries – that he has nearly matched that in a tenth of the matches here speaks volumes of the collective strength of the two competitions. It’s hard to develop outstanding test cricketers when their build up is in an average contest.
Don’t be surprised if you hear Ronchi’s name when the selectors announce their side for the ODI series in South Africa. If not, then BJ Watling may need to produce something special to keep Ronchi out of the side for the home series against England. Another century and average form from the incumbent should instigate a permanent change. If not, Ronchi will at least be the second ‘keeper in the return series in England in May.
Would I rather we produced our cricketers in this country? Yes, but when he’s eligible Ronchi should be selected. If players qualify and they’re good enough they should always be selected, regardless of their primary nationality – England have shown the world the way forward.
- Otago’s Ryan ten Doeschate struck 118 against Central Districts, to record a century in his 100th first class match.
- When he went to 19, ten Doeschate passed 6,000 first class runs – in three countries.
- Neil Wagner made scores of 68 and 65 in the match against Central Districts. It was the first time he had scored two half-centuries in a first class match, while his first innings 68 fell two short of his highest Plunket Shield score.
- Wagner went past 1,000 first class runs when he reached 46 in his first innings.
- Mathew Sinclair struck 142 in Central Districts’ first innings against Otago to take his century tally to 36; 27 of them in the Plunket Shield at 52.24 – he sits atop the CD list. It takes him past the 35 of Fleming, Rutherford and Stewie Dempster, and leaves him sixth on the all-time New Zealand first class centurions list behind Turner, Crowe, Wright, Sutcliffe and Reid, all of whom played in the County game.
- Central’s Bevan Small made 28, surpassing his previous best of 22.
- Somerset’s Peter Trego, playing a short stint with CD, took his 250th first class wicket when he dismissed Sam Wells in Otago’s first innings.
- Ajaz Patel, in his debut Plunket Shield season for CD, took 4/86 in Otago’s first innings, bettering his previous best of 3/62, though it’s only his second first class match. ESPNCricinfo currently lists his date of birth as unknown while New Zealand Cricket has him pegged at just one month old , having been born on 26 November this year – he has exceptional skills for one so young…
- Worcestershire all-rounder Gareth Andrew struck 180 not out for Canterbury against Auckland, including 126 runs in boundaries. In just his third match for Canterbury he bettered his previous first class best of 92 not out, and Plunket Shield high of 89, to go to his maiden first class hundred. In his previous 71 first class matches, Andrew had only gone past 50 on 12 occasions.
- Andrew’s knock was the highest score by a Canterbury number eight, bettering Lee Germon’s 160 not out against Wellington at Lancaster Park in 1989/90.
- 30 year old Phil Mustard made his New Zealand first class debut, for Auckland, in his 148th match. He’s played all but one of his other 147 matches for English county Durham, the odd match out a one-off appearance for the Mountaineers in Zimbabwe.
- Bruce Martin’s 5/45 in the Canterbury second innings was his first five wicket haul of the 2012/13 Plunket Shield season and the 18th of his career. Martin dismissed all five batsmen from numbers four to eight.
- When he dismissed Henry Nicholls LBW for a duck to take his first second innings wicket, Martin went to 300 first class wickets in his 110th match – the majority down the Southern Motorway for Northern Districts.
- Kyle Mills and Gareth Hopkins rescued Auckland’s first innings with an eighth wicket partnership of 145 – eight runs short of the record of 153 versus Canterbury by Rob Nicol and Reece Young in 2001/02.
- Kyle Mills took two five wicket hauls to take 10/147 for the match, and then struck a powerful 70 in Auckland’s first innings.
- With his 10th and final wicket of the match Mills claimed his 200th first class wicket.
- Tim Southee comfortably eclipsed his highest score in first class cricket. His maiden century, 156 off 130 balls, was well clear of the 77 not out he struck on test debut in 2007/8.
- On 61, Southee brought up 1,000 first class runs.
- Southee became the second Northern Districts’ player to score a century and take five wickets in an innings – coach Grant Bradburn was the first.
- Southee joined Daryll Mitchell in a record seventh wicket partnership of 166. It broke the previous best for ND versus Wellington of 131 by Peter McGlashan and Daniel Flynn in 2005/06, and then surpassed the record against all comers, bettering the 136 by Dion Nash and Alex Tait against Central Districts in 1997/98.
- Kane Williamson struck his 12th first class century, 121 not out, in ND’s second innings to lead his side to victory against Wellington. It was his ninth Plunket Shield century.
- Northern’s Ish Sodhi took his maiden five wicket haul in the match at Karori Park. His 5/128 bettered his previous best innings figures of 2/55 and set a new best match haul of 5/175.
- Australian Luke Ronchi became the first New Zealand wicketkeeper to score a hundred in each innings of a first class match, coupled with six catches in an innings.
- Ronchi’s six catches in Northern Districts’ first innings equalled the Wellington record.
- Auckland’s captain, Gareth Hopkins, hit 122 not out to help rescue his side’s first innings – it was his 15th first class century. The Wellington born wicketkeeper has represented four of New Zealand’s six first class provinces – only the city of his birth and Central Districts do not feature in his statistics, though he has a couple of years ahead of him yet.
- Queensland born Dane Hutchinson hit 45 in Wellington’s second innings batting at number ten. In just his third first class match, he went past the 13 he scored in the season opener against CD.
- Young Canterbury left-arm seamer Ryan McCone took 5/56 against Auckland, his second first class five wicket haul.
No run of the Mills performance
I’ve always been a supporter of Kyle Mills – regardless of the situation he appears to give every ounce of his being for his country. My views on that will never change, but a little research into his career statistics and I now understand why he hasn’t been given a regular opportunity in the test arena.
But first, onto the positive. Against Canterbury on the Outer Oval, Mills achieved the rare feat of 10 wickets in a match coupled with a score of 50 plus. Returning from international duty in Sri Lanka, Mills showed his class with first innings figures of 5/109 when everyone struggled against the belligerence of English professional Gareth Andrew. He then struck a fine 70 batting at nine in Auckland’s first innings to rescue this side from a precarious position. His stay enabled his captain, Gareth Hopkins, to compile his 15th first class century and ensure Auckland got a respectable total.
Mills’ 5/38 in Canterbury’s second innings, when coupled with five from new international Bruce Martin, paved the way for a seven wicket Auckland victory. His match figures of 10/147 were his second best figures in a 74 match career, but it also highlighted a first class career that has seldom reached the heights many of us (or me, at least) thought it had.
Prior to this match, Mills had taken five wickets in an innings just three times. Two of those were in one match, his first in the 2004/05 first class season, again returning from international duty. He took 10/82 against Canterbury at Hagley Park (let’s hope that down the line international cricket can return to Hagley – the first hurdle has been overcome, for the sake of cricket in the Garden City we all hope it gets the final approval at the Environment Court) - 5/33 followed by 5/49.
Excusing the successes against Canterbury, Mills had taken just one five wicket haul in 72 other matches, which explains his continued absence from the test arena. If someone had told me the stats I’d have laughed them off Twitter (it’s my biggest source of cricket chat these days) – it seems incongruous with his limited overs career. How can someone who has been at the forefront of our ODI side for so long, struggle so much in the first class game? He competes and looks a cut above most he encounters but his figures tell a different story.
Mills has yet to take more than five wickets in a first class innings, and in 19 test matches his best is just 4/16. That alone is every reason for his continued absence from the test side, though age is now as big a factor. Surprisingly, he’s taken just one five wicket haul in 141 ODIs, though his consistency has often been the one constant in the New Zealand line-up, but there will come a day in the near future when his name will no longer grace our scorecards.
For all that, Kyle Mills has made a significant mark on the New Zealand game. It was fitting that his 10th and final wicket in the match took his first class tally to 200.
That’s Tom, not Rod
Tom Latham is only 22 – he’s played just 20 first class matches. He debuted as an 18 year old, the son of former New Zealand international Rod Latham, though if you saw the two side by side, either now or in their playing days, you’d be mistaken for thinking that the father was simply another “fan boy”, not a highly tuned athlete. Already an international, Latham has donned the silver fern at both ODI and T20 level; though a regular spot could still be a while off.
In a short first class career, Latham has amassed a little over 1,000 runs at 33.35, including two centuries and another seven scores of 50 or more. He has shown the skills which should cement him in the international ranks for years to come, but he’s yet to show the consistency required at the game’s highest level.
However, with regular skipper Peter Fulton on New Zealand duty in South Africa, the red and blacks saw fit to promote Latham to the captaincy role for the pre-Xmas contests with Auckland. It’s a huge ask for a young man who would be better left to concentrate on his own game instead of directing more experienced heads around the field. The Plunket Shield encounter ended in a seven wicket loss, with Latham contributing just 22 runs, yet he was then asked to back up, with the added responsibility of the wicketkeeping duties for HRV Cup match two days later.
Latham is a hot prospect but he’s a kid, learning how to use a razor still presents challenges – let him grow up before asking him to take the reins of a side he’s only just earned a regular spot in.
Tell me what you think – I’d love your thoughts. The Plunket Shield has a break for the next month while the HRV Cup takes precedence during the holiday period – six quick singles will return in later January. In the mean time I’ll try to write something you’d like to read… Post a comment below or tweet me @aotearoaxi.