Aotearoa's favourite drink-running 12th man Matt Henry got a delightful Christmas present this year with another chance to run the drinks, cheer on the lads in the Boxing Day Test v Sri Lanka. There were squeaks from kiwi cricket fans that Henry should be given a crack in the Christchurch and this is no different to the standard ripples each and every Test, only that now the trendy thing is to chuck in Henry's work on the Kiwi County Tour for Kent with Henry making apparently making an irresistible case for selection.
Instead, Henry hasn't played a Test in 2018. That's enough to spark up the buckie in honour of everyone's favourite underground kiwi cricketer, then consider that apparently Will Young is part of Central Districts Stags squad for today's Super Smash game; Henry's gonna be supported in drinks-running duties by some local Canterbury heroes.
I do suggest that there is a strong chance Henry features in the Test series vs Bangladesh later in the summer though. Three Tests presents a chance for a splash of rotation in the bowling group and as this comes at the end of the summer, a bunch of variables will be in play impacting Test selection. For Henry's fan boys, there is hope to see Henry in the whites and this hope is aided by the fact that Henry should feature heavily in the jam-packed white ball schedule throughout January and February.
Right now though, we are reflecting on Henry not playing a Test in 2018 - the same year in which he was arguably the best bowler in County cricket. For starters, we're not talking about a year of Test cricket abundance and limited Test cricket means less opportunities for the 1st 11, let alone those next in line. This is compounded by two-Test series as there's less room for injury or workload to become a factor and the boost in Tests this year came via a three-Test series in United Arab Emirates, where Aotearoa played with two spinners; either Tim Southee or Neil Wagner dropped out.
Having greatly appreciated Henry's work in England, I understand that the basis of many folks hootin' for a promotion to the 1st 11 for Henry are his numbers for Kent. No matter how amazing those numbers are, they are at the level below Test cricket and are never going to be more impressive that Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner's work in Test cricket.
You can pick and prod at Southee, Boult and Wagner' Test numbers, run various filters on Cricinfo and twist them this way or that to paint a picture in favour of your argument. The simple fact is that these three have a fabulous record of getting the job done, especially in Aotearoa and as is the case with any elite sport; there is a hierarchy.
Conveniently, Henry's County cricket stuff can be packaged with a lacklustre effort at the Basin Reserve in the first Test, thus suggesting that the Blackcaps needed to change their bowling attack after Sri Lanka toiled hard for a draw. That completely ignores a flat pitch, the type of pitch which would have been the opposite of what Henry bowled on in England and on pitches like in Wellington, x-factor was required as opposed to the nibblin' seamers of Henry.
Let's not forget that Henry isn't exactly a Test cricket legend either. Averaging 46.52 in Test cricket, Henry also averages 45.66 in Aotearoa and while I'm happy to leave room for growth, for improvement as evident in his Kiwi County Work considering that he played his last Test in December 2017; averaging 45 in Aotearoa isn't taking your opportunities.
Not when Henry's main competition in Southee is averaging 16.82 in Aotearoa this year. I won't go too far down that route as no numbers can shake the belief that Southee, Boult, Wagner and Colin de Grandhomme form the best seam attack for Test cricket in Aotearoa. However, de Grandhomme has taken his chances at Test level and is averaging a highly respectable 29.92 in Aotearoa (25.60 in UAE), plus he can whack the ball really hard.
Henry is however, an ODI bowling freak and while Henry waits for his opportunity in Test cricket he's going to have a fabulous chance to seal a starting spot in a World Cup 1st 11. While averaging over 40 in Aotearoa with the red ball, Henry averages 17.41 in Aotearoa in ODI cricket and should be considered the leading contender to combine with Southee and Boult as the frontline ODI seamers.
What I love the most about sports and that which is clearly a significant part of this Blackcap role is the team-first/job-doing mentality, that is the cornerstone of any great team culture. Sports journalists living in the mainstream tend to focus more on the individual and thus would ask Henry about his own personal ambitions; of course Henry wants to play, however he's not an idiot and does his job in putting the team first to the best of his ability.
In Henry, we see the Blackcaps culture alive and well, like a brewing bacteria of gut health. Henry's supporters need not get their knickers in a twist because Henry will have his moment in the ODI series' to shine and there is a huge carrot, perhaps more scrumptious that a couple of Test matches with the World Cup looming.
In the vacuum of Test cricket, Henry is also an example of Aotearoa's simmering depth. Everyone knows that Henry is next in line and that if Southee, Boult or Wagner is unavailable, then an eager Henry will be given his chance. Aotearoa has some of the best seamers in the world and that's tremendous in itself, yet we also have another bloke frothing while he helps his Blackcap homies selflessly, hoping to get his mits on the red ball again soon.
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Peace and love 27.