Sunday, February 14, 2021

Hat tricks I have seen No 9

Amelia Kerr for Wellington v Canterbury, T20 Final, Basin Reserve, 13 February 2021

After a twenty-year wait between hattricks Nos 7 and 8, No 9 came along a mere 13 months later. It was distinctive among my collection of hattricks in several ways. It was the first by a woman cricketer, the first by a leg spinner, the first in a final and the first to be all bowled (indeed, the first where all three victims fell in the same manner).

Melie Kerr’s cricketing pedigree is as distinguished as any in New Zealand, including the Hadlees and the Bracewells. Her sister Jess was alongside her in the Wellington team here, as she will be in the national team in the forthcoming series against Australia. Both her parents, Robbie and Jo, were Wellington representatives. Robbie played as a batsman and sometime keeper 59 times in the 90s, mostly in one-day cricket.

Her grandfather Bruce Murray (often known as “Bag” because of his initials—BAG Murray) played 13 tests as an opener from 1969 to 1972. He played in the first test I ever watched, at the Oval in 1969, though I don’t think that I saw him bat on that day.

The family trade is teaching. Bruce Murray was a high-school principal for 20 years. Jess has just started as an intermediate school teacher (11–13 year olds) and Melie, according to Wikipedia, works as a teacher aide, supporting autistic children.

Watching Melie Kerr bowl leg spin has become one of the delights of the Wellington summer. She has great accuracy and turns it both ways. She also holds the record for the highest individual score in women’s ODI cricket (232 against Ireland). She is 20.

The game was the T20 final between Wellington and Canterbury. At 40 for two in the tenth over chasing 125, Canterbury needed to increase their scoring rate urgently.

The dangerous Amy Satterthwaite was already out, but captain Frankie Mackay was still there. She tried to sweep the third ball of Kerr’s second over. It was a googly, but she was beaten through the air rather than off the pitch and was bowled off stump.

The next delivery was another wrong’un, which Kirsty Nation failed to read, going back with room to play a desperate prod at the ball as it followed her. Top of off, again.

Emma Kench played a similar shot to the hattrick delivery, which went on quicker rather than turning. Kerr was, for a couple of seconds, the only person in the ground who did not know that the ball had again found its way to the top of the off stump, and was undertaking an operatic appeal for leg before when a swarm of teammates put her right.

There was nobody in the ground who thought that this was anything other than a match-winning piece of bowling, except the non-striking batter Kate Ebrahim, and No 8 Leah Tahuhu. Their thrilling partnership of 66 in six overs deprived Wellington of a fourth successive T20 trophy. More of that soon.


Saturday, January 2, 2021

New Zealand defeat the West Indies at the Basin Reserve

 New Zealand v West Indies, Second Test, Basin Reserve, 11–14 December 2020


As the West Indian fielders and the New Zealand openers took their positions for the first ball on the first day of this test match, they went down on one knee to affirm the universal truth that black lives matter. There had been no announcement of this beforehand so it took us by surprise. There was silence for a few seconds, then I and others started applauding, soon to be joined by a good proportion of the crowd. It was an emotional moment on a sunny morning with the red blooms of the pohutukawas leaking across the Basin’s panorama. Added to the privilege that we in New Zealand feel at simply being able to go to the cricket  was my personal reflection on the debt I have to West Indian cricketers. They were my Jesuits, capturing me at my most impressionable, inculcating me with an unshakeable faith in the passion and excitement of cricket to a degree that English cricket’s abstaining methodism of that time could not inspire. 

Regular readers will know that finding new ways of conveying the deep verdancy of New Zealand cricket pitches has proved a challenge to Scorecards over the years. The strip at Hamilton for the first test attracted a lot of social-media attention from the UK, mostly from people to whom it did not occur that the parameters of pitch behaviour 12,000 miles away might vary from those at the club down the road (the more strident the opinion about New Zealand, the less likely it is that the perpetrator has been here, or can locate the country on a map). The occasions on which these pitches produce the amount of assistance to the bowlers that their appearance might conventionally suggest are greatly outnumbered by those on which they do not. The score at the end of that first day at Seddon Park was 243 for two. Discussing this issue the other day, the TV commentators suggested that the green grass here might be so dense that the main effect is to cushion the ball. 

At the Basin, the first-morning pitch was about an eight on the international scale of greenness, and three-and-a-half measured domestically, still enough for Jason Holder to put New Zealand in upon winning the toss. Tom Latham was captain, as he was the last time Scorecards reported on the national team, in Sydney at the start of the year. This time, Kane Williamson’s absence was down to the impending arrival of his daughter. 

The sun had a ticket, but the wind is a life member at the Basin, and registered its presence by removing a bail at each end after the first ball of the match. The gale seemed to blow Shannon Gabriel off course. His first two overs went for 21, the ball pitched up too far with no consistent line. 

Gabriel adjusted to the conditions with the alacrity of an America’s Cup skipper. In his next 12 overs he took three for 17. The first of the three was Tom Blundell, the ball after he had cover driven a four. The next one came back just enough to find the gap between bat and pad and to hit the top of the off stump. Gabriel bowled with the wind, but that meant that he had to walk back to his mark into it, which he achieved at a speed of a retreating glacier. 

Showing himself to be an over-the-top-into-the guns sort of leader, Jason Holder opened the bowling into the wind. His opening spell was tight, but the first wicket from that southern end was taken by his namesake, Chemar Holder, at whom Latham drove to provide a first test dismissal not only for the bowler but also for replacement keeper Da Silva, in for the injured Dowrich.

Regular readers might expect that Devon Conway would have come in at No 3, so often has Scorecards extolled his credentials as an international batsman in the four years since he started playing for Wellington and qualifying for New Zealand. Despite Conway’s impressive start in the T20 side, Will Young of Central Districts got the call in this series. Young was close to selection for some time before making his debut in the first test. He was down to play in the Christchurch test against Bangladesh that was cancelled following the terrorist attack on the mosques in that city in 2019. He has a first-class average of 43, just four fewer than Conway. 

Ross Taylor was Gabriel’s second victim with another ball that straightened a little to provide a second catch to Da Silva. This brought in Henry Nicholls, another feeling the breath of Conway on his collar. It is a sign of the current health of New Zealand cricket that Nicholls’ current test average of 41 did not guarantee him a place for the rest of the season when not so long ago it would have done so for several summers. He and his fourth-wicket partner Young knew that a substantial innings by one would mean the other making way for Williamson on his return on Boxing Day against Pakistan.   

Young fell for 40 to a stunning diving catch by the captain at second slip (it was a surprise not to see Holder driving the team bus at the end of the day such had been his ubiquity in other roles). Nicholls finished with 174, but was missed four times, including two straightforward slip chances, and had edges go into gaps on any number of occasions. He showed great mental strength not to be undermined by his good fortune, but Young might be forgiven for shaking his fist at the fates. 

BJ Watling played an uncharacteristic innings that ended in an uncharacteristic way. Big shots replaced little nudges: 24 of his 30 runs came from boundaries.  He played on attempting to cut a ball that did not have the necessary width. 

Daryl Mitchell looked as comfortable as anybody and accompanied Nicholls to his century, achieved appropriately with an inside edge. It was the hundredth test century at the Basin, and one of the ropiest, not that Nicholls will care. New Zealand finished the day on 294 for six, much better than it would have been with average test-match catching.

The southerly always keeps its diary free for some of the Basin test, and was there for the second day, but without its usual icy venom. The Wellington summer wardrobe of two sweaters was sufficient.

The highlight of the first half of the day was Neil Wagner’s innings at eighth down. Wagner bats as he bowls, like a man writing an angry letter to the editor, in green ink with much underlining. After five balls to gain a sighter, he began with a little light legside slogging off Holder, then top-edged a six off Joseph, who was beginning to look a bit of a spare part, as Josephs will at this time of the year. 

Our hero was dropped twice at fine leg in three balls, neither easy, but both catchable. The joke du jour was that it had been a waste of money putting the West Indians in quarantine for a fortnight as they can’t catch anything. With a combination of the classical and the grotesque, the 50 partnership, 39 from Wagner, came up in 30 balls. In his 50th test, Wagner’s first test 50 was now close, but he had to wait until after lunch to push for two past point to get there. How we roared. There is no more popular cricketer in New Zealand than Wagner, for his enthusiasm, dedication and unkiwilike bad temper. He is Monty Python’s Black Knight made flesh. In the Boxing Day test a couple of weeks later he bowled 28 overs in the second innings with two broken toes. Here, Wagner marked the landmark by unrolling a cover drive of which Frank Woolley would have been proud. 

When Nicholls’ marathon ended, Wagner was joined by Trent Boult, the only batsman by comparison to whom he appears measured and orthodox. Anyone who has not seen Boult bat need only read some of Hardy’s descriptions of the bucolic folk of Wessex scything hay in the fields to get the flavour. He was off the mark first ball with a six over wide long on.

The innings finished two balls later at 460, Wagner unbeaten on 66. This was at least 200 more than the fielding should have allowed. 

West Indies had not taken a single step towards that total when Southee got one to hold its line close enough to off stump to force Brathwaite to edge to Watling. Along with Boult, Southee controlled and threatened throughout the opening spell. The inevitable second wicket came when Bravo did not go through with a drive, giving Southee an athletic return catch. Bravo’s departure from the field was Brexit slow.

These days, the New Zealand attack is no longer what Graham Gooch described as the World XI at one end and Ilford Seconds at the other. After Boult and Southee there was Wagner, who had got himself into a state about the price of fish, or global warming, or something, and was working it out with red-ball therapy. Then there was Kyle Jamieson, whose first over was one of the most memorable bowled in tests at the Basin.

Jamieson has made a dazzling start to his international career this year, having been on the domestic scene since 2014. He is 26, and it is hard to explain why he has suddenly become such a force. There was never a chorus of calls for him to be picked before he was. Yet here he is, with batting and bowling averages of 49 and 14 after five tests.

He came on, into the wind, for the 15th over. The first ball brought appeals from the slips, but not the bowler, for caught behind, but it had flicked the pad. Jamieson joined in the appeal for lbw from the second ball, but Latham did not review, rightly as there was an inside edge. Campbell drove at the third, full on off stump, and was caught behind. Chase’s first ball was an inswinging yorker that bowled him. 

The hattrick ball got the RA Vance Stand to its feet, as it clattered into Jermaine Blackwood’s pad, but the review showed that it was missing leg. The final ball was closer, again spearing into the back pad. It was turned down on review on the umpire’s call. 

Blackwood played for a while with the abandon of a man who has cheated death and is attempting to tick off his bucket list, reaching 30 from just 21 balls. At this point he drove hard to give Jamieson a tough return chance that was put down. This seemed to bring him back to his senses, and he took a further 43 balls to reach 50. With Shamarh Brooks he put on 68 for the fifth wicket.

Brooks was bowled by Jamieson playing no shot for a 92-ball 14, the first of the six remaining wickets to fall for the addition of only 34, leaving the West Indies with a deficit of 329. Southee and Jamieson divided the wickets equally between them, but this was a combined achievement of the whole attack. There was no let up in the pressure from either end.

The final two wickets were taken on the third morning. Since the abolition of the rest day, it has become unfashionable to enforce the follow on, but Tom Latham could feel what it was like to be Clive Lloyd, with four fast bowlers at his disposal, two of whom would always be fresh, so the West Indies openers were back in on a cold morning that had me watching the first session from the Long Room. 

The second innings went much better than the first for the visitors.There was more of an attacking intent, with 186 more runs scored in just 23 more overs compared to the first innings. The openers had almost seen off the opening spells from both ends when Boult removed Brathwaite and Bravo in the 11th over, the former to a fine catch by Young at leg gully off the middle of the bat. 

Campbell and Brooks put on 89 for the third wicket, but both fell within four runs of each other, interspersed with Chase picking up a pair. We expected the game to be wrapped up within the hour, but the West Indies lower order had more spirit, led by their estimable captain. I have written before of my admiration for Jason Holder, who has borne the burden of the West Indian captaincy with courage since the dark day of the World Cup quarter-final at the Cake Tin when he fielded lonely on the boundary as Martin Guptill tore his team apart. 

Holder found support from debutant Joshua Da Silva. They put on 82 for the seventh wicket in 18 overs, relying on the big hits rather than rotation of the strike and took the game into the fourth day helped by an early finish because of bad light, which, as ever, came when the batsmen were seeing the ball better than at any point in the match.

Holder was out in the first full over next morning to a cracker from Southee that left him just enough to take the off stump. Alzari Joseph got off the pair with a hooked six off Southee and made 24 entirely in boundaries before being caught behind off a legside strangle. Da Silva got a deserved half century on debut.

Wagner uprooted Gabriel’s middle stump to secure the victory with a margin of an innings and 12 runs. As usual, New Zealanders put the result down to how poor the opposition had been. As Holder acknowledged after the game, their catching was awful and spending so much of their lives in various degrees of quarantine over the past few months must take its toll, but we must overcome the natural humility that is central to our charm to acknowledge that we have a very good test cricket team. 

That as good a player as Devon Conway does not walk straight into the team shows the strength of the batting (Williamson returned to the team for Boxing Day and peeled off his 23rd century). We have added to this a four-man quick attack of high quality, even if, with loveable Kiwi diffidence, it lacks the speed of the great Caribbean attacks or England 2005. Of course, Wagner bowls as if at 150 kph rather than the mid 130s that the machine registers, a magnificent illusion worthy of membership of the Magic Circle. A quality spinning all-rounder would round things off nicely. Mitch Santner may fill this slot, but isn’t there yet. 

India’s defeat of Australia in the Boxing Day match in Melbourne means that New Zealand and Australia are level on points at the top of the ICC rankings, but, as we have come to expect from ICC contests, a technicality (most boundaries? wicketkeeper’s height? who knows?) keeps us in second place. 

This is different from the ICC test championship, with a final at Lord’s in prospect for the top two. New Zealand have a path to this, but it seems to depend on a decisive win for either Australia or India in the rest of their series, and for India against England. 

This may leave us in the awkward position of being on Australia’s side in the current series, though unprecedented choruses of C’mon Aussie, C’mon have yet to be heard this side of the Tasman.

I wish everyone a happy and safe 2021. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Thank you for watching my little show

Central Districts v Wellington, 50 overs, Fitzherbert Park in Palmerston North, 6 December 2020


I have written about cricket at Fitzherbert Park before. Nineteen years ago next March I covered a first-class match there between Central Districts and Auckland for CricInfo (the daily reports, or, if you prefer to relive the drama hour-by-hour, live reports, are still available). It was an odd game played on a pitch so treacherous that it might have been educated at Cambridge in the thirties.

Initially, the problem was sudden, rearing bounce. As the game progressed, this was varied by an increasing number that kept low, the mix trending towards the latter. At tea on the first day, I raised the possibility that the match could become the first anywhere in the world to be over on day one since Kent v Worcestershire at Tunbridge Wells in 1960 (you may sense in the angry-young-man tone of the reports the concern of a writer fearing that he will be paid for one day’s work when he had budgeted for four). In fact, it just stretched into the third, the obduracy and skill of Mark Richardson being decisive.

Palmerston North (Palmerston is a small town in the South Island) is a couple of hours’ drive north of Wellington, and in cricketing geography is part of Central Districts, which cover the bottom half of the North Island except Wellington, and the top bit of the South Island. It is the only serious contender for Wellington’s claim to be the windiest place in the country. That is due to its flatness, something that presents the navigationally challenged such as myself with difficulties, depriving us of topographical clues. Once, I made three attempts to leave the city, but arrived back in the centre each time, as if I were staging the Hampton Court maze scene in Three Men in a Boat in a modern setting.

Fitzherbert Park is one of five venues Central use during the course of the season, the others being the sublime Pukekura Park in New Plymouth, the Saxton Oval in Nelson, McLean Park in Napier, and Nelson Park in Napier when McLean Park needs time to recover from the rugby season (as you will see from the recycling of Palmerston and Nelson, New Zealand’s English placenames were selected from a narrow range of nineteenth century imperial figures, one reason why the current trend towards the use of Māori placenames is a good thing),

Fitzherbert Park is a pleasant venue, though not an outstanding one by New Zealand standards. Thinking of a similar ground in the UK, the best I could come up with was Archdeacon's Meadow in Gloucester, to which Gloucestershire switched when the Wagon Works Ground became unfit for first-class cricket (or rather when it was recognised that it had been unfit for that purpose for some time). It has a main road running down one side but is otherwise tree-lined. The stand being full of excited young players—commendable, but noisy—I took my place on some raised seats under a tree at deep extra cover.

This was the third of the ten-match league stage of the 50-over competition. The winner hosts the final. Second and third play off to meet them. Both Central and Wellington had lost their first two games, so the loser here would face a tough challenge to finish in the top three. Both sides were without key personnel in the test and New Zealand A teams.

Central won the toss and decided to bat. Wellington attacked early on, with four close catchers. This was good to see, but to no avail as both McPeake and Bennett were both expensive in their opening spells. In the fourth over Bayley Wiggins cut Bennett for six. Central reached 50 in the ninth over.

The introduction of Sears brought some control—just ten came from his first four overs—and the first wicket. Wiggins drove casually to mid off to be caught by Bracewell.

George Worker has been on the fringe of the international team for a while, and has made ten appearances in shorter forms. He showed his value with bat and ball here. In partnership with Ben Smith the hundred mark was passed in the 20th over and it seemed as if a total of around 300 was a realistic aspiration, but Worker also fell to a casual shot, to be caught at mid-wicket off legspinner Younghusband.

Around this time, two ducks were observed circling the ground, an ominous portent in the superstitious mind of the cricketer. Nobody went scoreless, but from that time on wickets fell regularly enough to deny Central the resource and momentum needed for a big score.

Tom Bruce’s was a key wicket. He can be as devastating a batsman as any in the final overs, but he had his middle stump knocked back by Younghusband when coming down the pitch. Hamish Bennett left the field after his first three expensive overs, and did not return, so the leggie was promoted from luxury to essential status. He responded well with three for 42. I hope that this encourages Bracewell to prefer Younghusband to his own rustic off spin more often.

Smith top scored with 79. He dispatched Younghusband into the flowerbed across the main road, but was caught on the mid-wicket boundary trying a repeat two overs later.

That Central finished with as many as 261 was thanks to some judicious late hitting by Clarkson, who took four fours off McPeake in the 47th over, and Dudding, who left no part of the bat unused in making 15 off the final over of the innings. I made a note that Central were 20 short, and, for once, I was about right.

The early part of the Wellington reply was a game of two ends. From the City End, Seth Rance kept it tight, conceding 19 from his first five overs, while profligacy from the River End meant that Wellington had made 60 by the end of the tenth.

Andrew Fletcher hit four boundaries off Liam Dudding’s opening over, all driven through the covers. The only wicket to fall in this period was that of Lauchie Johns, run out backing up when the ball flicked of Rance’s finger as he followed through.

Slow left-armer Jayden Lennox, playing the seventh match of a career so far limited to 50-over cricket, came on for the 14th over. I had not heard of him, but was greatly impressed by his performance here. He took one for 20 from his initial seven-over spell, the wicket being that of Fletcher, bowled by a ball that hurried on as he stepped back to cut.

With 97 to get from 17 overs and eight wickets standing a position from which Wellington should have won with something to spare. Win they did, but easy it was not. Bracewell and Johnson both fell to catches off Worker, to short fine leg and short third man respectively.

Jakob Bhula had come in at the fall of the first wicket, but hit not a single boundary between the 21st and 41st overs, when an inside edge bounced over the keeper’s head. He was a Morris Minor obdurately doing 30 with no higher gear available, slowing down the following traffic.

Fraser Colson joined Bhula and initially found it as hard to meet the desired scoring rate. Lennox was as abstemious as he had been earlier, but George Worker struggled to find his length and line on returning to the attack and Colson hit two fours in the first over of his spell before being bowled coming down the pitch to Lennox, who appears to relish a challenge.

Forty were needed from seven overs. A required rate of a little under seven an over is usually inconsequential these days, but Bhula was as becalmed as Ben Ainslie’s yacht has been in the pre-America’s Cup races so far, and though the new batsman, Gibson, hit the ball hard from the start, every one went straight to a fielder in the inner ring. One came from the 45th over.

It seemed when Gibson mishit an on drive off Field that Wellington’s last hope was gone, but the ball went high enough for the strengthening wind to carry it towards the mid-wicket boundary, which happened to be the shortest on the ground, and it dropped just over the rope for six to keep Wellington in the race.

With 22 needed from the last three overs, two of which were to be delivered by the reliable Rance, Central remained marginal favourites, but 16 came from the 48th over including two fours and a six from Gibson, who was growing fond of the short legside boundary.

Now, and only now, did Bhula find his boldness and touch, completing the paperwork with two fours off the first two balls of the 49th over. The image that sprung into my mind was that of Janet Webb sweeping into view as the credits rolled at the end of Morecambe and Wise, thanking people for watching her show, for this was a victory won despite Bhula’s unbeaten 97, rather than because of it.

The unusual structure of the competition had the two teams back at Fitzherbert Park for a second game two days later, but it was rained off. Both registered one victory in the two rounds that followed before the competition made way for the T20 during the summer holidays. Wellington are fourth, just two points behind third-placed Otago. With all four of their remaining fixture at the Basin Reserve, they can still make the play offs.














Thursday, December 3, 2020

Early Adventures in the Plunket Shield 2020

 Wellington v Canterbury, Plunket Shield, Basin Reserve, 19—22 October 2020

Wellington v Otago, Plunket Shield, Basin Reserve, 5—8 November 2020

Wellington v Auckland, Plunket Shield, Basin Reserve, 14—17 November 2020

“I’m off to the cricket.”

There’s a phrase to quicken the pulse of the cricket enthusiast, especially when uttered for the first time in a new season. This time, it comes with a new sense of privilege and responsibility, for New Zealand is presently the only place in the world where fans can freely watch their first-class team on their home ground.

As I have walked through the gates of the Basin Reserve these last few weeks I have had a sense of being at the cricket on behalf of those who can’t be, particularly those who blog on going to the cricket in the UK, on whom I have come to rely for a vicarious experience of county cricket, but who are, for now, excluded from it themselves. I’m lucky. Covid-19 hasn’t cost me a day’s spectating, save for what I might have seen had a planned visit to the UK gone ahead.

Traditionally, the season opens at the Basin Reserve to the sound of jack hammers and buzzsaws, but the renovation of the Museum Stand, or Old Pavilion as it is now called, is complete, and a great adornment it is. We look forward to an updated New Zealand Cricket Museum being opened in the New Year, and, I hope, the return of the second-hand bookstall.

My first cricket of the new season was a brief after-work visit to the third day of the opening Plunket Shield fixture, with Canterbury the visitors. Photos of the first-day pitch attracted a good deal of attention on social media due to its being greener than David Attenborough. Wellington were duly skittled for 65.

The rest of the game consisted of expanding totals as the pitch made its journey from spring to early summer. My visit coincided with the end of Wellington’s second innings. Devon Conway was batting. Wellington are making the most of Conway while they can. Top scorer nationally in all three forms of domestic cricket last season, he qualified for New Zealand in August, and was in the national squad for the T20s against the West Indies. Here, he was top scorer in both innings, not enough to prevent a seven-wicket win for Canterbury.

Conway, and the other international players apart from those in the IPL, were available for their provinces for the first half of the Plunket Shield, in theory at least. But while we are free of Covid-19 in New Zealand another plague is rampant, that of the “slight strain”, to which these internationals appear especially vulnerable, and which keeps them in social isolation away from dressing rooms.

The uneven structure of the New Zealand domestic programme sent the two teams to Christchurch the following week for the return fixture. Canterbury won even more easily, the prospect of Wellington retaining the Plunket Shield heading for the hills with summer not yet begun.

Otago were the visitors for the next match, at the Basin. This was a rare opportunity to see a first-class game in its entirety (or so I thought). The pitch wasn’t quite as green as that against Canterbury, but neither is the Amazon Rain Forest, so Michael Bracewell still put Otago in upon winning the toss.

Wellington’s customary breeze was unusually warm, and offered the prospect of swing, which may have had a hand in the first wicket of the match, Kitchen playing on to a Newton delivery that came back at him. 

With four right-arm seamers, Bracewell, as Trevor Bailey used to say about England in the 80s, could change the bowler, but not the bowling. Hamish Bennett has led the Wellington attack with distinction for the past few years, and in any other era but the pace-rich current one, would have been in the test team. He has yet to hit the rhythm of the recent past, and struggled for luck as well as form, having Hawkins dropped at second slip. The good fortune was monopolised by Sears, who got Hawkins in his first over, caught behind heaving at a wide ball.

The best batting of the innings came from Dale Phillips, who scored a maiden first-class fifty at a run a ball. I enjoyed his fluent driving through the offside, and so did the Wellington bowlers, judging from the opportunities they kept giving him to repeat the shot.

Phillips was joined by Hamish Rutherford, well-known in county circles. I saw him make a debut test century against England in Dunedin seven years ago, but he has become stuck in the cricket netherland populated by batsmen who look better than almost anybody in the domestic game, but who are not able to turn that into consistent runs at the higher level (for an English equivalent see Vince J).

Phillips slowed after passing fifty and was dismissed by the ball of the day from Ollie Newton, one that veered in from well outside off to knock out the off stump. A lunch score of 118 for three was indicative of an enterprising and entertaining morning.

The pace slowed in the afternoon as Wellington’s bowlers became more thoughtful and accurate. Rutherford and Kelly put on 56 for the fourth wicket after which the Otago innings subsided. They were all out for 265 in the 81st over. Sears and Newton both took four wickets.

With 13 overs to face at the day’s end, the priority for Blundell and Ravindra was survival, something they looked like achieving comfortably until the penultimate scheduled delivery, bowled by left-arm wrist spinner Rippon. It was as bad a ball as had been seen all day, a long hop well wide of leg stump. Ravindra could not resist, and set about despatching it down the Mt Victoria Tunnel. Travis Muller, at deep square leg, had assumed that his participation would not be further required and was slow to react to the unexpected approach of the ball at this late stage, but remained sufficiently composed to take the catch. Ravindra’s return to the rooms was funereal; he may have hoped that it would be empty and locked by the time he got there.

The weather on the second day came at us straight from Antarctica vis the southerly, so this account of it is as seen from the Long Room. Conway was not exposed to the cold for long: he played on to a short ball from Jacob Duffy, the pace of which was more than the batsman expected. Like Bennett, Duffy would have got international recognition in any other time.

These days, the dismissal of Conway has the effect on the Wellington batting similar to that of kicking away an old man’s stick. Collapse follows inevitably. Duffy had Blundell caught at second slip a run later, and Bracewell’s 37 was the only significant resistance; soon enough, Wellington were 144 for nine.

Sears and Bennett put on 61 for the tenth wicket, the biggest partnership of the innings. In the circumstances it would be intemperate to express disappointment with this admirable effort, but for me last-wicket stands should be the occasion of yahoo and mayhem, of clown shoes and custard pies. This was nothing but dogged common sense: Sears 41 from 154 balls, Bennett 20 from 106. No slapstick there.

The same could not be said of Otago keeper Mitch Renwick, who contributed 23 byes to Wellington’s 204. Though they weren’t all down to him, Renwick’s performance with the gloves was as lamentable as I have seen for a long time.

Otago lost Kitchen, who was bowled by Newton off the inside edge, and finished the day 91 ahead with nine wickets standing.

The wind had returned to the north-west for day three, a direction from which the RA Vance Stand affords ample protection, but it was the day four weather that was causing more concern: the forecast was apocalyptic and suggested that cricket would take second place to civil defence.

The morning confirmed that Dale Phillips is a batsman with prospects. He made a second fifty, but off 124 balls this time, so he has patience as well as shots. Rutherford also made a second, assured half century.

It became clear immediately after the luncheon interval that there had been meteorologically inspired negotiations over the ham salad. First Ravindra and Bracewell, then the rarely seen spin of Tom Blundell, tossed up some hittable stuff with the field up. Batsman Finn Allan joined in to claim Rutherford as a maiden first-class wicket, all the more notable for being the only lbw given in the whole game.

The agreed target turned out to be 279, eminently reachable in a day and a half, not so much if there was no play on the fourth day. If made, it would be the highest score in any of the eight innings played at the Basin so far this season.

At first, it seemed that Rutherford had been generous. Blundell looked terrific, driving and pulling fours with equal alacrity. He was a last-man-standing pick as test opener at Melbourne at the end of last year, but made a century in the second innings. Here, he looked every bit a test opener.

Ravindra also looked at ease, in a more defensive manner until he was bowled by a very good ball from Muller from round the wicket that left him just enough to hit off stump.

Conway batted as if the target was a pittance. His first four scoring shots were all fours, three driven and one off the edge. Such is Conway’s talent that he has the game for all circumstances. Here, it was front foot and drives. The following week, back foot, cuts and pulls. But those four shots were all there was; Duffy threw himself to his right following through to take a spectacular caught-and-bowled to dismiss him.

That was pretty much it for Wellington’s winning aspirations. Bracewell went two runs later, and though Blundell and Allen put on 58, the pace slowed and it was clear that Wellington would not beat the weather. Four wickets fell for 15 and Wellington finished the day on 185 for seven, though there was just time for Blundell to reach his hundred.

The fourth morning dawned as predicted, lacking only King Lear to egg it on. For most of my cricket watching years, that would have been it, play called off first thing, all done. But cricket grounds now dry out like a polyester shirt, and with Otago potentially needing only a few overs to win the game a start later was not out of the question. Scorecards Towers is about 20 minutes from the Basin on a Sunday, so I had decided to get there if it did start. For one thing, it is some time since I have seen the whole of a domestic first-class game, for another you never know what you might miss if you don’t go. A hattrick maybe, or a surprising finish. I kept checking Twitter for an update from Wellington Cricket. None came. Instead the live scoring suddenly fired back into life with the news that play had restarted and that Blundell was out. How was he out?

Obstructing the field.

Just the 32nd instance of this dismissal in the history of first-class cricket (using the figures in Wisden; CricInfo says 26th but misses several recent instances that Wisden lists), and only the second in New Zealand (the first being JA Hayes of Canterbury against Central Districts in 1954-5). There is a coda to this. At any time in the game’s history before 2017, it would have been handled the ball, but, for reasons that are unclear, this form of dismissal was then subsumed into obstructing the field, a description that suggests a physical altercation, rather than the batsman merely tapping the ball away from the stumps with the glove, as happened in this case. There were 63 incidences of handled the ball, rare enough to satisfy my curiosity for the extraordinary. According to reports, Blundell was the first to be recorded as out obstructing the field rather than handled the ball.

Anyway, (and this is the salient point) I was not there and will have added to my headstone, after “He never saw an opener carry their bat”, “or any of the game’s more esoteric dismissals, come to that”. Of course, I need to get a grip and realise that cricket watchers the world over will envy anybody who sees the most mundane lbw or caught-and-bowled in 2020.

Two more wickets quickly followed Blundell’s to complete an 84-run win for Otago, Wellington’s third defeat in a row.

Changes were therefore inevitable for the following weekend when Auckland were the visitors. Fraser Colson came in for  Finn Allen in the middle order, a seaming all-rounder (Sears) was replaced by a spinning all-rounder (Younghusband) and Michael Snedden (son of Martin) replaced Hamish Bennett, about whom there was talk of “workload issues”, which may have been a way of avoiding the d-word. Snedden provided continuity in the habit of falling over in the delivery stride, just as Bennett does.

The pitch was a lighter, more benevolent, Varadkar green than the militant De Valera shade of the earlier games, but with Kyle Jamieson in the opposition, Michael Bracewell did not hesitate to put Auckland in on winning the toss. Both openers went in the first three overs, Beghin lbw to McPeake playing across the line, and Solia edging a full delivery to the keeper.

Phillips then made a half century, the third time that has been so at the Basin this season. However, this was not Dale, who had so impressed for Otago, but his older brother Glenn, who we came across when he was rushed to Sydney for the test match in January. This innings was in the manner of Dale’s aggressive first-innings knock rather than the more circumspect second. It included five sixes, four pulled and one edged.

The first two wickets fell to accurate, good or full-length deliveries, an approach that Wellington would have done well to continue, rather than feeding Phillips short stuff. McPeake’s self-image was bowling 15 kph faster than he was. It was to a good length ball on off stump that Phillips fell, caught behind off Snedden.

At the other end, the bowling to left-hander Mark Chapman was fuller, but no straighter. He reached fifty from 72 balls, with 80% of his runs coming from boundaries, mostly through the offside. With a first-class average above 40 and a list A average above 50, Chapman should add to his shorter-form caps soon, though he will have to deal with bowling less imbued with the early generosity of Christmas if he does.

Martin Guptill replaced Phillips. The prospect of watching Guptill bat is always a treat, though like Mark Ramprakash there is a massive discordance between how good he looks and his test stats. Soon there was a straight-driven four that made a sound off the bat as sweet as a hummingbird uncorking champagne. But Newton, showing the value of line and length, got him with a fine ball that bounced a fraction more than expected. O’Donnell chased a wider ball from Snedden to leave Auckland at 134 for five.

Wicketkeeper Ben Horne was next in. He has the most distinctive ritual while waiting for the bowler to bowl that I have seen for some time. He begins by banging the bat really hard on the ground. I thought that a 21-gun salute was under way at the National War Memorial just down the road. Once the bowler approaches, the bat is raised to shoulder height and waved manically, as if conducting an invisible orchestra in the covers. It worked well enough here; Horne made 57, the recovery built around him.

On 90, Chapman hit the shot of the day, a square cut that left McPeake on the boundary with no chance despite having only five metres to cover. Chapman was out in the following over, five short of a deserved century when he was caught at slip off Gibson while deciding whether to play or leave. Gibson did a decent job into the brisk north-westerly, which he needs to be careful about; you don’t want to get a reputation as an into-the-wind bowler at the Basin if you have aspirations towards old age.

Kyle Jamieson has a wonderfully straightforward approach to batting: play well back to anything short of a length, well forward to the rest, and be aggressive except when you really can’t be. He beat Horne to fifty despite coming in 13 overs later. They put on 85 for the seventh wicket. McPeake took three quick wickets to finish the innings at 279.

Wellington had seven overs to bat at the end of the day, always a nervous time, especially for Rachin Ravindra, who had given it away so memorably in these circumstances the week before. Today it was Blundell who did not make it to the close. He misjudged a short one from Jamieson and shovelled a catch to mid on.

The second day began in perfect conditions, with a clear blue sky. A photo of the ground at the start of play was liked and retweeted more than anything else that I have posted. It was one of those timeless days where you could close your eyes to the sound of bat on ball and be at Folkestone in the 70s, Mote Park in the 80s, Bath Rec in the 90s or your favourite ground whenever.

Only one wicket fell all day, that of Ravindra, driving a little loosely at Jamieson to be caught in the gully for 23. Ravindra has to avoid the reputation as a maker of elegant trifles (see Vince J).

For the rest of the day, Conway and Bracewell worked their way towards a third-wicket partnership of 287. Conway is patient, waiting for the ball does not have to be bad, just not quite angelic. Here, scoring square of both sides of the wicket dominated, though there were shots down the ground too, notably the six over long on with which Conway reached his century.

Worst moment of Auckland’s day was just before lunch when Conway fell for the trap that had been set all morning and hit a catch off Jamieson to deep square leg where a routine catch was put down.

Bracewell, who is quite capable of playing aggressively, sensibly played the supporting role here. His century was his first for Wellington in first-class cricket (he made seven for Otago), and helped suppress a growing reputation as a non-converter of fifties.

That Wellington did not run away with the day as it went on was thanks to a sluggish pitch and disciplined bowling. We have not seen one of these, hard-to-get-out-but-hard-to-score-on pitches at the Basin for a while, and let’s hope that we have a long wait for the next one.

Off spinner Will Somerville came on for the 26th over and bowled through until the new ball was taken. He gave Auckland control without looking like taking a wicket (he took two the following day). His admirable performance made me miss Jeetan Patel, who did the same job for the home team for the best part of two decades. Did anybody else feel the same? Probably not. Patel never got the recognition in his home town that that he has in Birmingham, where they hold him in reverence. Wellington have not replaced him. Here, Bracewell—12 wickets in a decade—was Wellington’s lead spinner (though for several overs the scoreboard told us he was Blundell). Younghusband bowled just one over.

The day was enlivened at lunchtime by an outbreak of the Scarborough Festival. A brass band appeared and treated us to a lunchtime concert, though, like the Wellington attack, it knew only one tune (Can’t Take My Eyes Off You). It was to do with the filming of a segment of the New Zealand version of Taskmaster.

Towards the end of the day there was use of experimental law 2.8.4, which states:

If the umpires cannot find any reason to suspend play under this law, they may still do so from time-to-time purely for their own gratification.

The players left the field for 20 minutes because of a problem with the run-up area just behind the crease at the northern end. Compacted sand was said to be the issue. As is usual, the first attempted remedy was that everybody with an official title of some kind went out to the middle and stared very hard at the offending area. When that didn’t work, the groundsman banged a heavy tool on the turf, which might have been thought likely to intensify any compaction problem. But it did the trick and the game continued. At the close, Conway was 149 and Bracewell 123.

I wasn’t there for the final two days. Auckland were set 167 to avoid an innings defeat, which they managed comfortably, Wellington having taken too much time in building the lead, but a side that has lost three in a row may be forgiven for consolidating.

The Plunket Shield disappears for three months now, like the British Raj heading for the hills to avoid the heat of summer. Test cricket returns to the Basin next week, however, and I give thanks that I will be there.





















Saturday, September 26, 2020

Lord’s Finals I Have Seen: 1981

Somerset v Surrey, 55 overs, Lord’s 25 July 1981

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire, 60 overs, 5 September 1981


One of those special cricketing years, the mention of which bursts a dam of memories, like 1947 did for John Arlott, and 2005 and 2019 do for many in England. Willis coming down the hill at Headingley like the wrath of God, Botham like God himself, at Edgbaston, Old Trafford and in and out of the confectionary stall at Headingley.

It was a very good year for me too. I watched no cricket until June, laudably focusing on my history finals at Bristol University, Henry Tudor rather than Henry Blofeld taking my attention. I more than made up for it thereafter. Looking through the scorecards in Wisden, I am surprised by how much cricket I watched that summer, possibly more than any before or since, except those years early this century when CricInfo paid me to watch here in New Zealand. Full weeks at Maidstone, Canterbury and Folkestone, Championship games at Lord’s and the Oval (a day return to London from Herne Bay with a student railcard cost less than two pounds in 1981), first visits to Bath and Cheltenham, an ODI at Lord’s and a day at the Oval test all part of my schedule.

It would take too long to give a full account of that summer; 1981 would be a good choice for a day-by-day reconstruction like that for 1967 that I did a few years ago. One day, when I have more time. For now, I’ll stick to the brief of the Lord’s finals, for which this was also a memorable year, one featuring an individual performance of brilliance, and the other providing the closest finish yet.

My academic exile meant that I saw none of the group games in the 55-over competition. Instead, I caught up with the competition in unusual circumstances at the quarter-final stage. 

Kent were having a better season than they’d had in 1980 (it would have been difficult to have had worse) and had won their group, earning a home quarter final, but there was so much rain at Canterbury that the game did a moonlight flit to the Oval before the third of the three days were set aside for knockout games in those days. Kent won, thanks to Chris Tavaré’s 76 and a good all-round bowling performance led by John Shepherd’s three for 24. But Warwickshire probably still haven’t worked out how they lost, from 133 for two chasing 193. I have written about this game before. It was the day I made the acquaintance of Allen Hunt, with whom I was to spend many happy times watching cricket up to the time I left the UK 16 years later. Allen remains one of the small number of readers I keep in mind when I write these pieces, even though he has been dead these 20 years.

The semi-final draw sent Kent back on the road to the hell that was Taunton. Batting first, their 154 was a huge improvement on the 60 of two years before, but as difficult to defend as an A-level algorithm, despite Richards and Botham being dispatched for two each. It was a day when cussed determination was the premium quality, and it was cricket’s arch contrarian Peter Roebuck who took Somerset on the slow-road home with 51 not out spread over 38 overs.

I wasn’t at the County Ground that day because I was receiving my degree from the Chancellor of Bristol University, Dorothy Hodgkin, Nobel Prize winner, feminist, disarmament advocate, and the only Labour supporter whose portrait Mrs Thatcher requested be displayed at No 10 Downing Street. Readings from Hodgkin’s letters are available on BBC Sounds, and make a fascinating listen.

Somerset took top billing for the final at Lord’s, their third appearance in four years. This was a little unfair on opponents Surrey, for whom it was three in three, but they had all been losses, so they were that actor who is in everything, but whose name you can’t quite remember. I know what I wanted when I took my seat at the Nursery End: another Lord’s century from Viv Richards. But would Surrey make enough batting first for that to be able to happen? It seemed unlikely when Surrey had made only 15 from their first 18 overs, and lost two wickets in the process.

That they got as far as 194 was largely due to their captain. Unusually for the era, RDV Knight played for three counties, starting with Surrey, moving in turn to Gloucestershire and Sussex before returning to the Oval as skipper in 1978. Knight was an establishment figure, later becoming first secretary, then president of MCC. But he received no selectorial favour from this; Knight was one of the better players of the era not to receive a test cap. His judicious 92 here gave Surrey what little chance they had. Second-highest scorer was Monte Lynch with 22.

The three finals in which Richards scored hundreds have his name eternally associated with them, but they might more appropriately be known as Garner’s matches. His combined analysis over these three games was 32.3–8–81–16. Garner’s record for Somerset in first-class cricket was good, though not as destructive as Malcolm Marshall was for Hampshire or as consistent as Courtney Walsh at Gloucestershire. But like Richards, he rose to a Lord’s occasion like an actor on a West End first night, finding an extra gear of pace without compromising the laser-guided accuracy, and all delivered from that acrophobic angle.

Garner was largely responsible for Surrey’s slow start, and, as on the two occasions in 1979, returned at the end of the innings to seek and extinguish anything with the slightest scent of hope about it.

Pete “Dasher” Denning was a fine county cricketer, and it is no disrespect to him that of the crowd at Lord’s that afternoon, all but those who were closely related to him were pleased to see him bowled by Sylvester Clarke for a duck, for that meant the early entry of Viv.

Just as he had in the 1979 60-over final, Richards began with exaggerated care, as if the wellbeing of everybody from Porlock to Frome was dependent on his staying at the crease, which, in a way, it was. Gradually, the shots unrolled, helped by left-armer David Thomas’s strange belief that Richards would be vulnerable to the short ball on leg stump, a misapprehension that led some in the Mound Stand to regret that they had left their tin hats at home. As ever, it was magnificent. Richards’ Lord’s final centuries will ever remain among my best cricket memories.

He had perfect support from Peter Roebuck, which, as we now know, would not always be the case. Roebuck fed Richards the strike like Ernie Wise setting up Eric Morecambe’s punchlines. He contributed just 22 to their third-wicket partnership of 105. He was followed by Ian Botham, greeted with acclaim at the end of a week that began with the miracle of Headingley. The rest was showing off, and very enjoyable it was. Somerset won by seven wickets with more than ten overs to spare.

The first round of the 60-over knockout competition earlier in July had Yorkshire coming to Canterbury for the only tie that pitted two first-class counties against each other. By this time, the poisoned chalice of the Yorkshire captaincy had passed to Chris Old, who put Kent in upon winning the toss.

Martyn Moxon went early, caught behind off Kevin Jarvis. Bill Athey joined Boycott, reuniting the partnership that had put Kent out of the previous year’s competition with a stand of 202 at Headingley. They seemed to be heading the same way here as they added 72 off 22 overs. As so often, it was Derek Underwood who restored order, the Metternich of his time, restoring obedience in the provinces through ruthless control. He bowled 12 overs straight through for just ten (10) runs. The scorecard says that he took no wickets, but does not count those he dismissed at the other end.

Here, Chris Cowdrey was the beneficiary, as the Yorkshire batsmen tried to take off him the runs they lost by focusing on staying in against Underwood. Cowdrey kept his nerve, maintained good control and was rewarded with four for 41, including Boycott and Athey. A rapid partnership in the last ten overs between Hampshire and Bairstow took Yorkshire to 222 for six, a total that would win considerably more such games then than it would now.

The chase started badly for Kent with the loss of Woolmer and Johnson for single figures. Both fell lbw to Old, who was among the best of his time in probing weakness with accuracy and movement off the pitch. Nevertheless, it is no surprise to find that Ray “Trigger” Julian was officiating.

This was the summer of the two Tavarés. For England, the gritty professional Tavaré CJ, holding back the Australian attack at Old Trafford while scoring at a rate that caused the scoreboard to rust. For Kent, the dashing amateur CJ Tavaré, dominating county attacks and cover driving like Hammond reborn. Yorkshire did not mistake one for the other as so many were prone to do; a couple of months earlier he had taken them for 97 off 16 overs in a Sunday League game at Huddersfield. This was one of three centuries (plus a 99 not on a Sunday) that I saw him make that year. All of them started calm and became destructive, like the Beaufort Scale expressed through the medium of cricket. Never mind the slowcoach stereotype, Chris Tavaré was a very fine batsman, and this was his best year. He is No 3 (and captain) in my XI of Kent favourites. On the day in question he was supported by Mark Benson, who had just established himself as a first-team regular, in a third-wicket stand of 142 that secured the game.

Nottinghamshire came to St Lawrence for the second round. They were champions that year, playing on home pitches that bore the hue of the Lincoln Green of the men of Sherwood. The game was scheduled for the day after the miracle of Headingley. Graham Dilley returned from there to Canterbury; most of the England team, including Botham and Willis,  played for their counties that day, something that would be greeted with incredulity now (though on the day that I write Joe Root has turned out for Yorkshire the day after playing for England, but may not have been able to name all of his young teammates).

It was cold, wet and dark. The start was delayed until 2pm and it was no surprise when Clive Rice put Kent in, though he quickly sent Woolmer and Tavaré back to the dressing room. Rice and Hadlee were the hot act that summer, and for a few to come. Here they finished with five for 35 between them. Batting was a struggle, the 58-run partnership for the third wicket between Johnson and Benson by far the biggest of the innings. Another weather delay with ten overs left did not help. The innings finished three overs short of the 60 for 154. Nottinghamshire knocked off 21 of these in eight overs before play finally ended at 8 25pm.

Peter Marson, reporting for The Times, describes the crowd for the second day as a “paltry few”. We may have been few, sir, but we were far from paltry. We were in the unusual position of hoping for weather as grim as that of the day before, so that batting would be as challenging. I don’t remember any great shots—there weren’t any—but have clear recall of extraordinary tension of that day. It went well for Kent for first 90 minutes or so. Kevin Jarvis removed both openers, then Graham Dilley took the vital wickets of Randall and Rice. Chris Cowdrey weighed in with those of Birch and Hassan to leave Nottinghamshire with 76 to get, four wickets standing and most of Derek Underwood’s overs to come.

Richard Hadlee and Bruce French were in. Hadlee took 105 wickets in the Championship that year was well on the way to being recognised as one of the great quartet of all-rounders of that era. He is usually thought of as a bit of a swashbuckler, but this innings was the epitome of judgement and prudence, matched by the 21-year-old wicketkeeper. Underwood conceded only 12—making a total of 22 runs off 24 overs across the two games—but unlike the Yorkshire batsmen, these two knew that they had the overs left to get the runs off other bowlers without too much risk. They worked away at it, as French would at a sheer mountainside as he climbs it. For an hour we thought that he would fall with the next step, but he never did. They won with three-and-a-half overs to spare. It was a terrific game of cricket, as low-scoring matches can be.

Faced with a similar total in the quarter-final, Nottinghamshire fell short against their neighbours, Derbyshire, who beat Essex in the semi-final by losing fewer wickets in a tie. Their opponents at Lord’s were Northamptonshire, like Surrey back for a third final in three years. Now that counties change their line-ups radically from year-to-year it seems extraordinary that Neil Mallender coming in for the retired Jim Watts was the only change from the XI that had been at Lord’s in both the two previous years.

A couple of names in the Derbyshire team surprise. There is David Steele, now finishing a three-year spell at Derby before returning to Northampton. And the captain, Barry Wood, whose seventh September Lord’s final this was. As I’ve written before, in a later era Wood would have played a hundred-plus ODIs rather than the 13 on his record.

It was always pleasing when one of county cricket’s supporting cast moved to the front of the stage at Lord’s. Colin Tunnicliffe was as archetypal an English seamer as could be. He approached the bowling crease with an unhurried gait that said the season is long and energy must be conserved. He put it there and thereabouts, using the novelty that being a left-armer offered, and was grateful for as much help the pitch offered. When he bowled the second over of the match it would have been the biggest moment of his career. It did not go well, at first. Geoff Cook and Wayne Larkins were aggressive, more so than was usual for openers then, but it was a clear, warm, blue-skyed morning free of the customary Lord’s September new-ball wobble. Tunnicliffe went for 21 in three overs and was taken off, something of a humiliation in those times; opening bowlers would invariably bowl half their allocation at the start of the innings, then come back with the rest at the end.

They had put on 99 for the first wicket when Larkins was caught at deep square leg. Cook went on to make a century. The selectors in those pre-digital days when statistics were collected slowly and rarely, placed undue emphasis on single performances in late season, particularly the final test and the 60-over final. Cook’s 111 earned him a place in the touring party to India and Sri Lanka, while Paul Parker’s test debut duck, for which I had been present at the Oval the previous Saturday, meant that he was omitted. Larkins had also played in the test, making a respectable 34 and 24. Presumably, had he, not Cook, got the hundred here, he would have been on the plane instead.

Perhaps the most important piece of action that day came when Allan Lamb set off for an unwise single to cover. Geoff Miller’s throw beat Lamb’s desperate return to the crease and he was gone for nine. Lamb, now in the last year of his qualification to pay for England, had made 78 and 72 in his earlier appearances in Lord’s finals, so this was a big blow.

Williams was spectacularly caught by Alan Hill at long on, in front of us at the Nursery End, but Northamptonshire still reached 200 with seven wickets standing and eight overs to go. Even with seven or eight fielders on the boundary, it seemed that 250 would be the least that Derbyshire could restrict them to.

That the final total was only 235 for nine was down to two things. The first was terrific fielding. After Hill’s catch, Barry Wood ran out first Peter Willey, with a direct from square on, then Jim Yardley. The second was Tunnicliffe, who conceded only 21 from his remaining nine overs, the same as had gone from his first three. He ended Cook’s innings leg-before, then frustrated all remaining batsmen with bowling that was accurate, canny and a triumph of resilience.

You can date old footage that features Peter Willey by the angle at which he is facing in his batting stance. It shifted a few degrees each year, and by the time he finished it was tempting to shout “he’s behind you” as the bowler approached.

Derbyshire started well. Hill was part of an opening stand of 41 before he was bowled by Mallender. Peter Kirsten now joined John Wright.

Between them, Kirsten and Wright played for Derbyshire for 17 years. They were typical of the overseas players of that era; they attached themselves to a county and stayed with it, Wright for long enough to qualify for a benefit (though he had a season for Kent Seconds before going north). The quality of English domestic cricket improved as a result, and put it on a more level footing.

Wright and Kirsten put on 123 for the second wicket, but at a speed that left no horses frightened. Both were leg-before to Mallender in the 48th over (Trigger Julian was not present; Ken Palmer was the umpire). This left Derbyshire needing 71 from 12. Six an over was a much taller order then than now—fielding circles started for the 55-over competition this year, but did not apply to this competition, so there were routinely seven on the boundary in the later stages of the innings.

Wood and Kim Barnett were both going well until the captain was bowled, quickly followed by David Steele, for a duck heaving across the line.  Barnett put on 23 for the sixth wicket Geoff Miller, when he was run out, having had to divert across the pitch to avoid crashing into his partner.

Two overs were left, with 19 still needed and Sarfraz Nawaz to bowl the 59th, a situation that made the fielding side strong favourites. If the tension for we neutrals was high, for supporters of the two teams it was becoming a medical event. The new batsman was Tunnicliffe, whose day was to continue to get better.

Twice in the next over he found the boundary, both with assured shots, one to square cover, the other straight. That left seven needed for a clear win, but at the start of the over Derbyshire had lost six wickets compared to Northamptonshire’s nine, so would win in the event of a tie. It was also very dark, which in this situation could work against the fielders as much as the batsmen. Jim Griffiths, another English seamer out of central casting, was the bowler.

With most fielders on or near the boundary, the strategy was to get them in ones and twos. Miller drove the first ball into the space between long on and deep mid-wicket for two. The next was a single to third man. Griffiths got away with a full toss from the third, hit back to him by Tunnicliffe off a leading edge. An edge to third man brought another single. A squirt to deep square leg from the fifth left one needed for the tie.

The instruction from Miller to Tunnicliffe was not to get bowled. He complied, the running off the pad into the legside. Lamb picked it up and a footrace between him and Miller began. I doubt that Miller, who was in the crease as Griffiths released the ball, ever moved faster. His dive secured the trophy for Derbyshire.

Cook got the man-of-the-match medal from Viv Richards. I thought that Tunnicliffe should have had it. He was largely responsible for reining in the closing stages of the Northamptonshire innings and those two boundaries off Sarfraz set up the win. A few months ago Tunnicliffe, Hill and Miller did a You Tube watchalong on the highlights of the game. The production is a bit rustic, but it’s well worth a look. The link is below.

So Derbyshire won by fewer wickets lost in a tied game. That’s the proper way of deciding a tied one-day game, and everybody here in New Zealand agrees.

Watch the highlights of the 60-over final with Geoff Miller, Alan Hill and Colin Tunnicliffe

Highlights of Viv Richards’ century in the 55-over final.























Hat tricks I have seen No 9

Amelia Kerr for Wellington v Canterbury , T20 Final, Basin Reserve, 13 February 2021 After a twenty-year wait between hattricks Nos 7 an...