Coming off a disjointed round rua of Plunket Shield, Wellington Firebirds are chillin' at the top of the Plunket Shield ladder as they grabbed their second win over Canterbury. Central Districts Stags also notched a win over Northern Districts Knights, while in Otago there was no play between Otago Volts and Auckland Aces. Wellington, CD and Auckland all have at least one win, while Canterbury, ND and Otago are yet to register a win.
Today I'll zone in on a few batsmen who scored runs in round two, although not much more needs to be said about Wellington's Devon Conway. Conway put up 327* to set up Wellington's first innings, followed by 66 in the second innings which takes conway up to 508 runs @ 169.33avg/80sr and Conway's 4 innings look like this: 96, 19, 327* and 66.
Two batsmen have 100+ runs and strike-rates of 80+; Conway and his Firebirds homie Jamie Gibson. Gibson only has 108 runs via scores of 65 and 43* in his first outing of the summer, second ever game of Plunket Shied, which isn't to suggest anything negative towards Gibson, there is a difference between 508 runs @ 80sr and 108 runs @ 87.09sr which Gibson has.
Conway has 72 fours and 8 sixes. Tom Latham is 2nd in runs and 2nd in fours with 35 fours, while Gibson and Daryl Mitchell (ND) are 2nd in sixes with 5 each. Conway's career average is now 47.30, which is bumping the 50 mark and it'd be kinda bonkers for a bloke to have 100 First-Class games (99 now) split between South Africa and Aotearoa with an average over 50. Stay tuned.
In the same game, Latham hit 224 to keep Canterbury in a competitive space vs Wellington. Latham's in an interesting patch of form when considering his Test stuff vs Sri Lanka as he had scores of 30, 45 and 154 in the Tests, then 20, 224 and 23 so far in Plunket Shield. No cheap dismissals in that cluster and this could suggest a low key nek level for Latham where his experience and comfort with his own game has him in a better space to settle into his innings'.
Latham's First-Class average of 44.15 is perfectly aligned with his Test average of 44.03. While you might expect Latham to be better in FC when dropping down from Tests, he's racked up 106 FC games compared to 45 Tests. That disparity in games played feels like it evens things out and I'm looking forward to seeing Latham in the whites soon enough.
In the Stags win over Knights, George Worker hit 130 in the first innings with a 60 from Brad Schmulian and 71* from Tom Bruce in support. Bruce doubled up with 60 in the second innings and undercover brother Ben Smith chimed in with 52 in the second innings, providing a couple funky nooks and crannies to explore.
Worker feels like a forgotten geezer of kiwi cricket and after not much in round tahi vs Auckland, he's on the board by round rua. Anything is possible for Worker if he pumps out big runs as he can do, I have no idea about his Blackcaps standing though as it seems like that opportunity has passed him. That all depends on Worker's runs though and Worker has established a benchmark early, so what he does now entices me.
Not quite as much as the return of Bruce, who came straight back into Plunket Shield stuff and scored runs. Bruce has been around the Blackcaps T20I squad recently, however this is a bloke who averages 44.48 in FC cricket and depending on where his run-scoring goes throughout the summer, across the various formats; Bruce could be the biggest mover and shaker this summer in domestic cricket.
Couple full bangers off Trent Boult’s short stuff…
Worker and Bruce still don't hit the juicy enticing spot though, not like Brad Schmulian. With a 50+ score in each of his last three games, Schmulian has a career average of 40 after 12 FC games and is currently 3rd in Plunket Shield runs. Last round Schmulian hit 74* vs a strong Auckland bowling group and followed it up with 60 (and 12) vs a Knights bowling attack led by Trent Boult and Neil Wagner.
Schmulian has plugged the Will Young hole and when Young comes back alongside Bruce, the Stags will have some wiggling to do in their line up. This may depend on who is doing better between Schmulian who bats #4 and Ben Smith who has been at #3, alternatively some lads might depart on Blackcaps duty and open spaces up. Point being that Schmulian has moved beyond the next in line guy and is commanding consistent selection as the Stags leading run-scorer so far.
Brett Randell hit a first innings 56 batting #8, then Bharat Popli hit 87 at #3 in the second alongside Joe Carter's 55. Popli interests me the most here as he's still trying to find the juice from a couple seasons ago in which he dominated in piling up runs and when I saw that he got a quacker in his first innings, I was keen to see what he did in the second as he desperately needs a couple nifty scores.
Popli couldn't help his team get the win, but 87 against a slightly weakened Stags bowling attack is exactly what he needed. Unlike the Conway, Latham, Worker, Bruce kinda group who once they settle into their work, can roll out big runs steadily, Popli has to suss out his groove and slowly accumulate confidence. I'm not willing to suggest that Popli is someone to watch out for based on this innings and he's slipped down the domestic batting pecking order recently, but the Knights will need Popli to supply runs and thus, Popli could start to shine once again.
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Peace and love 27.