Plunket Shield

The Plunket Shield - full of history
The HRV Cup may have quickly established itself as New Zealand Cricket's showpiece product - its shop window to the public, but cricket isn't a product - it's our great game.

Plunket Shield cricket has disappeared from the radio airwaves, from a station that was built on cricket coverage. Those are commercial decisions, made on the basis of fiscal responsibility, ignoring that cricket is struggling for a fan base in this country more than it has in recent memory. A lack of audio coverage shouldn't detract from our enjoyment or following of the domestic first class game - 6 quick singles came about from a need to provide something of a focus, albeit a short one, on Plunket Shield - test cricketers aren't born in the limited overs format, and no level of success in the pyjama game will see New Zealand move above their station as a two test (series) team.

Rant aside, the Plunket Shield (or Shell Trophy, State Championship) is a fantastic competition - an opportunity to see our best domestic cricketers do battle over four days. Established in 1906, the Plunket Shield is a reminder of the essence of cricket - sitting on a grass bank, freely chatting with players, and enjoying a game that doesn't need to sell itself as entertainment first and sport second.

I'll cover off each round, and work and family permitting I should be able to load it within a couple of days of its conclusion. I've included a milestones section in each piece to note the records and achievement of players and teams - so far this year there's been more records broken than by Eastern Bloc athletes in the 1980s!

Six quick singles

Plenty of gifts for everyone (24/12/2012)
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.

The night watchman delivers (14/12/2012)
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.

A rose amongst thorns (6/12/2012)
After a run-filled November, December has been a return to the “bad old days” of domestic cricket – inclement weather, cavalier batting and totals that would raise the wrath of club coaches. Colin Munro continued his dominance in Kingsland but Otago’s Dr Jekyll won out over Mr Hyde. Northern Districts’ James Marshall showed loyalty is a virtue, but his female contemporary Nicola Browne took the early honours, setting a new benchmark in the women’s game.

Munro goes long (30/11/2012)
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.

More records than Elvis (23/11/2012)
The start to the 2012/13 Plunket Shield season has seen records broken like plates at a Greek wedding. For a competition steeped in history, the play has been fascinating – domestic cricket’s cream has risen quickly to the top.

A mixture of youth and experience continued to show through in the most recent round. Michael Papps, Dean Brownlie and Peter Fulton all dominated with the blade, while promising young international Tom Latham led his Canterbury team mates to an unlikely victory in Rangiora. But the most encouraging performance came from Central Districts’ young quicks, Adam Milne and Ben Wheeler – if only they can stave off injury that so regularly strikes down bowlers with any pace in this country.

The battle for Southern supremacy (15/11/2012)
Few domestic encounters in New Zealand cricket evoke the same passion at the clash of the two Southern sides – Canterbury and Otago. The provincial neighbours have already met in the first round of the Plunket Shield, with Otago securing a comfortable victory in Rangiora on the back of Aaron Redmond’s pair of centuries.

The return encounter 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 be overly satisfied with the draw. But it was what Southern derbies are all about – two sides giving all they have, grafting for every inch.

Plunket Shield's return to Eden (14/11/2012)
The battle of the north returned to Eden Park in the latest round of the Plunket Shield. Last season’s top two sides came into their second match after a winless previous round – Northern Districts’ were denied victory in a match they should have won; Auckland looking to build their confidence after a poor effort in a loss in Napier.

ND and Auckland enter the fray (8/11/2012)
After a week waiting in the wings, Northern Districts and Auckland got their Plunket Shield campaigns underway against Otago and Central Districts respectively. 

Both matches peaked in high drama on the final day – what Kiwi cricket fan’s would give to be able to listen to the drama on the radio – maybe later in the season if 2011/12 is any indication. For now, they’ll have to rely on Twitter updates and New Zealand Cricket’s live scoring – the second rate coverage of our first class game is disappointing. However, if the season continues in the manner of the first four matches then fans should make every effort to get along to their local park - entertainment guaranteed.

Plunket Shield’s opening round (2/11/2012)
First class cricket is upon us and summer is underway - the first two matches of the Plunket Shield are done and if the season continues in the same vein supporters would do well to get to their local oval. In an early season reversal, bat dominated ball with the top order leading Otago and Wellington to comprehensive victories over Central Districts and Canterbury respectively.

If you missed all the action, have a read of my six quick singles and keep abreast of our great game.

Second rate coverage of a first class game (29/10/2012)
The Plunket Shield got underway on Saturday with all the hoopla of an Eketahuna calf show. What was once New Zealand Cricket’s domestic flagship has been usurped - left to its own devices.

For live scoring of every domestic match (the women’s competition included), get onto the New Zealand Cricket website. Within 24 hours of the end of the match, video highlights of every wicket and each batsman’s boundaries are uploaded – it’s well worth a watch.

If there's a topic you'd like to hear about let me know,  I'm always keen for cricket writing fodder - leave a comment on one of the pieces or tweet me @aotearoaxi. When time allows I’ll compose a Plunket Shield XI of the best overseas professionals to grace our great game.

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