Saturday, April 13, 2024

NZC: Plunket Shield 25% Loaded

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Photo Credit: Auckland Cricket

A quarter of the way into the first-class championship and already we’ve seen six five-wicket bags, seven centuries and of course the 44th first-class hat-trick in New Zealand!

TRICK OR TREAT

BLACKCAP Kyle Jamieson’s feat at Eden Park Outer Oval was only the seventh hat-trick for the city of sails – and that stretches all the way back to the first in 1882/83.

The full list is quite fascinating:

  • W Lankham v Taranaki at Auckland Domain 1882/83
  • F Barclay v Canterbury at Auckland Domain 1903/04
  • C Olliff v Wellington at Auckland Domain 1912/13
  • Tama Canning v Central Stags at Colin Maiden Park 1999/00
  • Matt McEwan v Northern Districts at Eden Park Outer Oval 2017/18
  • Ben Lister v Otago Volts at Eden Park Outer Oval 2018/19
  • Kyle Jamieson v Central Stags at Eden Park Outer Oval, last week

Auckland, what were you doing for eight decades?

Looking around the six first-class Associations, it’s interesting to see how often the wickets have crashed over or the finger has been raised on that third ball.

Auckland — 7
Most recent: Big Kyle
Hat-trickiest venue: Auckland Domain (now a club ground) & the modern day Aces HQ, Outer Oval: three in four years, wow!

Central Districts — 7 (all since 1959/60, when quick Gary Bartlett set the ball rolling in the association’s infancy)
Most recent: Blair Tickner at Saxton Oval 2017/18
Hat-trickiest venue: Saxton Oval (2)

Northern Districts — 5
Most recent: Graeme Aldridge (now ND’s coach) at Cobham Oval, 2010/11
Hat-trickiest venue: N/A

Wellington — 10
Most recent: Logan van Beek at Hagley Oval, on the same day Matt McEwan took his hat-trick in Auckland (first time in the world there had been two hat-tricks on one day)
Hat-trickiest venue: Basin Reserve (7)

Canterbury — 4
Most recent: The one and only Sir Richard Hadlee, at Nelson’s Trafalgar Park in 1971/72
Hat-trickiest venue: N/A

Otago — 7
Most recent: Neil Wagner at Queenstown 2010/11
Hat-trickiest venue: Carisbrook (RIP) (3)

So there you have it, they certainly don’t come along in the Plunket Shield every day.

FIVE-WICKET BAGGERS

Big, stronger than ever after working hard through the off season and now consistently hitting a good length (which is even more impressive, given his hightower build), Kyle Jamieson is leading this department as well already, and is also the top wicket-taker so far with 15 at 8.80.

The only bowler to snare two five-wicket bags from the first two rounds, “KJ” is the kingpin in the Aces’ attack and it looks like his confidence has gone from strength to strength since joining the side ahead of last season.

More Jamieson statchat: he’s now taken three bags from his last three games (and a 4-49 in the Test before that), including his maiden BLACKCAPS 5-45 in the Test match against India at Hagley last summer:

  • 5-45 v India in February
  • 5-39 v Otago Volts in Round One
  • 5-41 v Central Stags in Round Two

Reckon the Stags are really looking forward to facing him again at Saxton Oval this week.

Meanwhile at Jamieson’s old team Canterbury, two interesting pace bowlers nailed their maiden first-class bags in the same match this last week.

Fraser Sheat, who’s young and quick and whose grandfather also bowled for Canterbury (Frank Rapley, a spinner who took a first-class 6-73 against ND in 1959/60), has picked up this important psychological milestone for bowlers in his fourth season.

Sheat almost cracked it last summer with a 4-52 against the Stags, but his 5-25 against the Firebirds at Hagley was exactly what his captain required to get Canterbury on top early.

At 22, this should be the first of many for Sheat.

Will Williams then made it a double celebration for the Canterbury pace attack for “Big Billy” — who took an astounding Dream11 Super Smash hat-trick and five-for last summer after being brought on in the 18th over.

At 28, hard working Williams has been lurking around in the attack for the last five or so seasons, chiming in with his medium pacers and making useful contributions without really setting the scorecard alight.

He actually made his debut way back in 2012 before a long layoff with a foot injury that cost him a couple of summers, so after a backstory like that you can picture why his teammates were so elated for him when he took the second-innings 5-58 in Canterbury’s innings victory on Saturday.

Like Sheat and Williams, Sean Solia (Auckland Aces) has also taken his maiden five-wicket bag this season with a sensational 5-8 that hobbled the Volts in the first round (he had a chance of backing that up against the Stags, too).

As eminent NZC statistician Francis Payne elucidated, it was one of the most economical five-fors of all time to go down in the books.

In the back end of the Plunket Shield last summer, NZC trialled a new Kookaburra ball designed to behave a little more like the Dukes of the northern hemisphere scene, a ball that offers more to the pace bowlers. That’s continued this season and Tim Southee relished it when he got into his stride at Mount Maunganui and picked up 5-42 in a good win against the Volts.

It was our super Southee’s 20th first-class bag, his 10th for ND, and his first at Bay Oval.

RUNS RUNS RUNS

Now this will either surprise you or not surprise you at all, or possibly both at once. Guess who’s the leading Plunket Shield runscorer after the first two rounds?

It’s not any of the seven guys who have raised their bat for a century already this summer which, for the record, is:

Michael Rippon — 106 (maiden ton) v Auckland Aces at Outer Oval
Ben Horne — 162 v Otago Volts at Outer Oval
Joe Carter — 146 not out v Otago Volts at Bay Oval
Daryl Mitchell — 103 v Wellington Firebirds at Hagley Oval
Cam Fletcher — 100 not out v Wellington Firebirds at Hagley Oval
Doug Bracewell — 102 v Auckland Aces at Outer Oval (batting at eight!)
Jamie Gibson — 116 not out (maiden) v Canterbury at Hagley Oval

Nup. It’s that old faithful, Devon Conway, NZC Domestic Player of the Year for the past two seasons, the man who top-scored in the run hauls in all three formats last summer, rushing up again with 233 runs from four innings at 58.25.

What’s remarkable about this is that in almost all of those, the patient 29-year-old was battling away through chaotic batting collapses, in losing efforts. He would have top-scored in all four digs (even with a 27) had cheeky allrounder Jamie Gibson not come along and bopped his maiden unbeaten 116* in the most recent innings.

Here’s the early season leaders in the run charts:

Devon Conway (Firebirds) 233 from four innings
Joe Carter (ND) 226 from three innings
Ben Horne (Aces) 192 from three innings
Michael Rippon (Volts) 159 from four innings
Henry Cooper (ND) 155 from three innings
George Worker (Stags) 154 from three innings
Tom Latham (Canterbury) 145 from three innings
Jamie Gibson (Firebirds) 145 from four innings
Daryl Mitchell (Canterbury) 129 from two innings
Doug Bracewell (Stags) 122 from two innings
Greg Hay (Stags) 115 from three innings

The hundred form horse is ND captain Carter, who now has three big centuries from his last four games (including two in one match, last summer), while Stags captain Hay equalled the NZ Plunket Shield record for most consecutive half centuries until it was seventh time unlucky in the first innings against the Aces last week.

Two more rounds of Plunket Shield before Christmas will take us to the halfway mark of the season (before teams switch to The Ford Trophy and Super Smash) and it will be fascinating to see which teams will hold the cards heading into the break.

Come-from-behind championship wins are rare in the Plunket Shield, and the lore is that you want to be in the top three or four teams before the resumption in March in order to be a contender. Will it be so in 2020/21?

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