Friday, December 14, 2012

Six quick singles – the night watchman delivers

It was going to take a Herculean feat from Central Districts to recover from a poor first day – it never came. Will Young’s maiden century was lost in a heavy defeat, surpassed by a nonchalant innings from the talismanic Jesse Ryder and a maiden ton from Scott Kuggeleijn.  Cricket matches aren’t won or lost by the individual feats of one man, though CD management must be tempted to touch base with Tonya Harding’s husband, and bodyguard, prior to the sides’ next meeting.

Central Districts 260 (W Young 121, M Gillespie 3/56, S Kuggeleijn 3/53; 59.1 overs) and 389 (J How 51, J Raval 74, C Cachopa 90, P Trego 59, J Franklin 4/71, J Patel 3/66; 116.4 overs) lost to Wellington 403 (M Papps 117, J Ryder 162, A Lamb 3/76, A Patel 3/62; 98 overs) and 248/3 (M Papps 77*, S Kuggeleijn 142*; 66.4 overs) by 7 wickets at Karori Park, Wellington

Starts but no finish
Cricket matches are seldom won on the back of mediocrity, though no-one told the Central Districts’ batsmen. 20 year old Will Young was the exception to a green and yellow rule on the opening day as he struck a strong maiden century – his 121 was a beacon of hope in a sea of failures. He entered in the twelfth over with CD in a hole at 3/58 and Cachopa and Sinclair cooling their heels in the sheds, and was the last man out - caught behind hooking. Jamie How got to 45 at the top, but the other nine batsmen could only muster 75 between them and the CD innings was over inside 60 overs – the chances of victory were largely gone before tea.

While they got through to 389 second time out, they’d have been disappointed not to have got closer to 500. Six of the Central batsmen got past 35, including all of the top four, but none got into three figures. The four fifties are a fine start but wins are built on tons – Wellington reinforced that point in both knocks. Had even one of the top six got through to three figures, Central could have built more substantial partnerships around the centurion and left Wellington with a chase to challenge a formidable batting line up.

It’s an easy game with no pressure
Cricket is as much psychological as physical – natural ability and technique are important but self-doubt, a cluttered mind and fear of failure affect even the greatest players. Jesse Ryder has talent unrivalled in our current crop but can we expect such phenomenal returns when he eventually steps back into the international arena, or will a different environment stymy the freedom he’s been afforded in the domestic game?

The talismanic Ryder struck his third Plunket Shield century of the season before the close of the first day’s play. There’s nothing special in that, until one reads that Wellington batted second. Ryder went past three figures in a shade over 30 overs, taking his Wellington side to within 84 runs of CD’s first innings total inside the first day, for the loss of just two wickets.

When he was dismissed 20 overs into day two, the powerful lefthander had bludgeoned his way to 162 off 174 balls – 104 of them going to or over the rope at Karori Park. Regardless of the format, Ryder has played with a freedom few have seen in New Zealand’s domestic competitions. He appears to bat without an ounce of weight upon his broad shoulders – happy in a Wellington environment that has enabled him to flourish, concerning himself solely with enjoying his time at the crease. Some of his dismissals, including both in this match, have been lazy but the capital side is unlikely to raise any concerns with Ryder – genius doesn’t stop brain fades but labouring the point doesn’t change behaviour either.

Judging by Ryder’s recent comment to Bryan Waddle, he hasn’t a care in the world – on the pitch, at least. He maintained it’s easier to wield the willow when pressure isn’t a factor. Likewise, his coach, Jamie Siddons, is content to excuse the occasional weak wicket, secure in the fact that a comfortable Ryder will succeed more often than he fails – if he’s in the mood, he is one of the few New Zealand cricketers who can change a match in an hour.

It’s pleasing to hear that the new international captain has been in touch, but if Ryder decides to make the step back into the international game (and the decision is solely his – if he’s ready he’ll play) will Hesson, McCullum et al. be willing to allow him the length of rein he’s enjoyed for Wellington? Will history and the New Zealand culture stymy a game that has paid such dividends in the domestic ranks. The bowlers may be stronger and the captaincy more astute but it’s the psychological pressures and mental anguish that may hold the key to any success when he finally returns – role on England. Please?

Spare a thought for Central Districts. In five innings against the Stags this season Ryder has struck 547 runs at 136.75. Five of those knocks have ended in three figures and he was unlucky not to get another when the sides met in a T20 in Napier a week ago.

  • Ajaz Patel made his first class debut for Central Districts after playing his first HRV Cup match just a week ago.  
  • Central Districts’ Will Young struck his maiden first class hundred in CD’s first innings. His 121 surpassed his previous best of 50* in his eighth first class match. 
  • Michael Papps and Jesse Ryder struck 256 in the first innings to set a new record for a third wicket partnership for Wellington against Central Districts, bettering the 186 set by Jason Wells and Selwyn Blackmore at Pukekura Park in 1999/00. 
  • Roald Badenhorst notched up his highest first class score, 36, as a night watchman is Central Districts’ second innings, bettering his 22* towards the back end of last season.
  • After going past 50 for the first time in an 11 match career, Scott Kuggeleijn struck his maiden first class century, 142* - his previous best was 36. 
  • Somerset’s Peter Trego struck 59 in Central Districts’ second innings, his first half-century for the province in just his second outing. It was the 45th time he’s gone past fifty in first class cricket, including nine centuries.  

The night watchman strikes
Those who read my blog regularly will be familiar with my disdain for batsmen who hide behind night watchmen – men who sit on their hands while a bowler, less equipped with batting skills, takes the heat at the end of a day’s play. Scott Kuggeleijn’s heroics only heighten that – a fine maiden hundred for the 20 year old is a great return though it highlights the folly of James Franklin’s choice to hide in the back room. But, Kuggeleijn deserves better than a rant…

I’ll be honest, outside of his old man goading Sir Richard by referring to him as “King Dick”, I know little of Scott Kuggeleijn. From what I’ve seen he looks like he has the potential to become a fine all-rounder – he gets the ball through and wields a heavy bat. 

With a previous best of 36 in 10 first class matches and an aggregate of 68, fans bereft of any television or radio coverage would be forgiven for thinking the young man was handy but little else – scorecards seldom show talent, in a batsman’s early career at least. Many would have questioned his credentials to play as a night watchman let alone his ability to strike a match-winning hundred. However, like James Franklin a decade ago, Kuggeleijn was a strong batsman at school and age group level and those who know Wellington cricket would suggest it was only a matter of time until he found his feet with the blade.

Kuggeleijn dominated an unbeaten fourth wicket partnership of 214 with domestic stalwart Michael Papps, leading his side to a comfortable seven wicket victory over rivals Central Districts. After succumbing for a six ball duck, batting at nine, in Wellington’s first innings, Franklin’s reluctance to do his job meant the young man got his chance at five late on day three.

When he walked off just before tea on the final day, Kuggeleijn had struck 142 off only 181 balls and left the faithful who had turned out at Karori Park in no doubt as to his considerable talent. After taking 161 balls to get to a maiden first class hundred, Kuggeleijn needed only another 20 to finish the game – 34 of those runs coming in boundaries. 

A maiden century for one so young often creates unfair expectation. All we can hope is that Kuggeleijn now feels he belongs in the domestic game and starts to build a record that shows it – genuine all-rounders are worth their weight in gold.

A wicketless final day
Unless the New Zealand summer plays its part and the heavens open, it’s rare for a first class day to go by without a wicket. Day four in Wellington may have only lasted into the 54th over, but Central felt nothing but pain. Resuming at 53/3 with Ryder been and gone, the match hung in the balance – an early wicket or two for CD and a smallish total had the potential to be more difficult than it should have. Wellington gave nothing!

The experienced Michael Papps carried his bat while young Scott Kuggeleijn struck 142 not out – his maiden first class century going more than 100 past his previous highest knock. The pair put on 195 on the fourth day as the Central bowlers toiled for no reward. What could have been a difficult day finished with little more than a raised sweat, though pulses peaked with some of Kuggeleijn’s hitting after he went to three figures.

Cachopa unlucky not to be heading home
Left out of the test squad to tour South Africa, Bloemfontein born Carl Cachopa would have been looking for a strong return to show the selectors the error in his omission.  A third ball duck in Central’s disappointing first innings didn’t achieve that, but a well-struck 90 in his second knock, while not the three figures he’d have liked, showed the strength of his talent.

Three centuries, 556 runs and an average of 69.50 in five first class outings this summer see Cachopa second on the Plunket Shield runs list yet recalls for the experienced (1.97 metre) Peter Fulton and Dean Brownlie mean Central Districts will have his services for the next few weeks at least. The loss of Ross Taylor’s experience at the top will have helped Fulton, and Perth born Brownlie is tailor made for the quicker, bouncier wickets in Africa, but Cachopa deserved his opportunity given the volume, and manner, of his runs throughout the calendar year.

With a number of Plunket Shield matches remaining before England’s arrival, Cachopa may yet get his chance at the game’s elite level before the summer is out. Given the hostile reception the New Zealand top order will get in Africa, there should be openings come February. Ross Taylor will reintegrate but Cachopa’s ascension may hang on Brownlie’s efforts against Steyn, Morkel and Philander, and Ryder’s desire to don the black cap again.

His promotion seems a matter of if, not when. All Cachopa can do is continue on his century crusade and wait for New Zealand’s top order to revert to type.

Tell me what you think – I’d love your thoughts. The final pre-Xmas Plunket Shield round kicks off on Sunday with all six sides in action. If you get the chance, get together with a few mates and watch some great first class cricket as work winds down for the year – chances are you’ll see hundreds and sixes aplenty. Post a comment below or tweet me @aotearoaxi. 


  1. What are your thoughts on the keeping slot? I think there's been too much of chopping and changing there. I'd still go back to Reece Young and stick with him for a considerable length of time.

    1. I think they've got it closer to right on the SA tour. young is a fine keeper but I'm not sure his batting's up to it to play as a genuine keeper/batsman and he's not keeping for Auckland now - Hopkins take the gloves. I like Watling at test level though he needs more glove time - he has the right mould to plug the batting too - a place had to be found for him. de Boorder is, by all accounts, a fine keeper and knows which end of a bat to hold so it's good to see him get a go. However, I do agree that it's important to keep things as steady as possible. For the test side, I can't see Watling going for some time unless he gets injured...


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