Plunket Shield cricket is almost upon us, so here are a few notes about the best bowlers from last season…
Ish Sodhi - Northern Districts Knights
7 games, 314.4 overs, 36 wickets @ 24.97avg/2.85rpo.
While many view Ish Sodhi as a T20 battler, the Knights leggy has set up camp near the top of the Plunket Shield bowling rankings for the last few seasons. Sodhi was the only bowler to bowl 300+ overs last season, in fact he was the only bowler to bowl 260+ overs and while that tends to lead to more wickets, Sodhi's average was as good as most of the other leading bowlers despite that workload - which serves as an example of the bowling loads Sodhi can take on. It seems as though a corner has been turned given that Sodhi averaged 40+ in each of his first three Plunket Shield campaigns, then he dropped it down to 31.48 in 2015/16 before averaging in the mid-20s for his last three seasons. Clear improvement and Sodhi will be a key weapon for the Knights in the opening stanza.
Hamish Bennett - Wellington Firebirds
6 games, 192.2ov, 32w @ 17.87avg/2.97rpo.
The resurgence of Hamish Bennett in his final playing years (how long could be play on for??) has been fascinating and while other hostile seamers filter into the domestic circuit, no one is approaching Bennett's level. Bennett averaged 15.39 in 2017/18, followed by 17.87 last season and those are fairly freakish numbers for a bloke who has not averaged below 20 at any other point of his career. Expect Bennett to again lead the Firebirds bowling attack admirably and with a strong batting line up and funky bowling support, Bennett could again jack up big numbers.
Mathew Bacon - Otago Volts
7 games, 200.2ov, 31w @ 24.61avg/3.80rpo.
The surprise package from last season's bowling group was Mathew Bacon, who finished as the only Otago Volts bowler to average under 40. As bonkers as that sounds, that's exactly the case; Jacob Duffy took 17 wickets @ 46.82avg, Nathan Smith took 12w @ 42avg and even the lads who chipped in with a few wickets (4-6w) had massive averages. Bacon is 26-years-old, but more notable is that he has only played 12 Plunket Shield games and is still learning his craft. That could either result in Bacon continuing to improve, hitting a nek level this season or batsmen on the circuit may be better prepared for Bacon.
Will Somerville - Auckland Aces
7 games, 249.5ov, 25w @ 25.96avg/2.59rpo.
Earning a Blackcaps Test debut without much Plunket Shield cricket to his name, Will Somerville finished his season in an extremely solid position and that's reflected in how he shook up the Aotearoa spin scene. With a First Class average of 26.37, Somerville returned to Aotearoa after two impressive summers (four summers total) in Australia where he averaged 19.14 (2015/16) and 23.14 (2016/17). Somerville has simply carried his development over to Aotearoa and his presence leaves me fizzing to see whether Somerville can dominate and how the other spinners around Aotearoa respond.
Matthew McEwan - Auckland Aces
8 games, 210.1ov, 24w @ 21.45avg/2.45rpo.
A move to Auckland has seen Mathew McEwan emerge as one of the most dependable cricketers in the Plunket Shield and this has come with McEwan operating as a senior figure in a young Auckland Aces group. Since moving to Auckland, McEwan has averaged 24.77 (2017/18) and 21.45 (2018/19), which offers an interesting juncture ahead of this season as McEwan will have more bowling support with the arrivals of Kyle Jamieson and Corey Anderson.
Ryan McCone - Central Districts Stags
7 games, 193.1ov, 24w @ 22.41avg/2.78rpo.
An undercover hero for the Stags last summer, Ryan McCone sailed off into retirement.
Mathew Henry - Canterbury
4 games, 163.5ov, 23w @ 21.17avg/2.97rpo.
Another typical campaign for Matt Henry last time around, popping in and out of Plunket Shield cricket between Blackcaps duties to snare his share of domestic wickets. I've dubbed Henry as the underground king because of his work away from the spotlight and this narrative is always going to offer plenty of intrigue as any lack of Blackcaps opportunities for Henry, lead him to Plunket Shield wickets. There is no reason to suggest that things will be any different this season, which is what Canterbury need with the young tinge to their bowling unit.
Seth Rance - Central Districts Stags
6 games, 130.2ov, 22w @ 20.45avg/3.45rpo.
Seth Rance is a domestic cricket monster and last summer's work reflects that, although I'm not convinced about Rance's ceiling as an international cricketer. I could be wrong and Rance could demand an opportunity by blasting his way through the opening rounds of Plunket Shield cricket, then most importantly snapping up his opportunity. My gut feel though, is that Rance is going to be playing a lot for the Stags this summer and that ain't good news for opposition batsmen.
Doug Bracewell - Central Districts Stags
6 games, 193.5ov, 22w @ 23.95avg/2.71rpo.
Same vibe here with Doug Bracewell as I discussed for Rance, with a wee bit more Blackcaps potential for Bracewell. The thing about the Stags is that these blokes aren't quite certified Blackcaps and so they play a lot of domestic cricket and like Rance, domestic cricket is meat and vege for Bracewell. Bracewell and Rance finished with a creepy similarity to their bowling stats, so there could be a splash of intrigue about who starts the season the hottest and with McCone retiring and the likes of Ben Wheeler, Adam Milne and Blair Tickner in the attack, there's no shortage of competition.
Scott Kuggeleijn - Northern Districts Knights
6 games, 175.1ov, 22w @ 28.40avg/3.56rpo.
Not quite the best Plunket Shield season for Scott Kuggeleijn, but in keeping with his trend of averaging in the mid-20s through the last four seasons. Kuggeleijn will feature as a hostile impact type of bowler when Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme and Neil Wagner are playing, then sliding into the leader of the pack type of role when those bowlers are out of action. Either way, Kuggeleijn tends to take wickets and after being around the Blackcaps set up a fair amount recently, what level of influence Kuggeleijn can have in the Plunket Shield will be something to keep tabs on.
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