Domestic Cricket Daily: Plunket Shield Round Rua (Bowling Fings)

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Yesterday's Domestic Cricket Daily zoned in on some Plunket Shield round rua batsmen and today, it's all about them bowlers. While I won't put this all into a kiwi-African bucket, it's important to note that after two rounds of Plunket Shield cricket, three of the top-four bowlers are kiwi-Africans and two of the top-three batsmen are kiwi-Africans. Obviously Devon Conway's presence leads the way with the willow, while Central Districts Stags batsmen (/all-rounder) Brad Schmulian sits 3rd in runs.

Things are a wee bit funkier with the ball, primarily because it's Malcolm Nofal who leads all wicket-takers with his lefty spin for Wellington Firebirds. Northern Districts Knights seamer Neil Wagner is 2nd, as one would kinda expect given his wicket-taking ploy for international cricket works pretty damn well against domestic batsmen. Then, below Jacob Duffy who is still 3rd despite missing the round two game between Otago Volts and Auckland Aces which was abandoned and in 4th sits Willem Ludick, who tickles my toes just as much as Nofal in terms of their intriguing start to the summer.

Schmulian came to Auckland from South Africa as a youngster, then moved down to CD to chase that cricket bug. We all know Wagner's yarn and now we have a fresh wave of kiwi-Africans coming through, blokes who have come to Aotearoa at the start of their cricketing careers of in Conway's case; after he's smacked all sorts of runs in South Africa.

And it's Nofal who leads us today, thanks to his 6-wicket-haul vs Canterbury with 2w @ 3.21rpo in the first innings followed by 4w @ 5.26rpo in the second. Nofal snared Canterbury's captain Cole McConchie as well as Matt Henry in the first, then 3 of his 4w in the second dig were top-six batsmen. The eye-test has Nofal as a fairly basic lefty tweaker, the type who relies on subtle variations in pace and flight to trouble batsmen. This has me comparing Nofal to Ajaz Patel in a very general sense and the challenge for Nofal is to sustain his effectiveness as batsmen start to pay more attention to what Nofal is offering.

I'd also suggest that circumstance has played a role in Nofal's strong start after Jeetan Patel took up a coaching gig with England, thrusting Nofal into the numero tahi spin role. Nofal has bowled 65 overs in the first two rounds, a few less than Logan van Beek's 73 total overs but considerably more than Michael Bracewell's 20 overs as the next busiest Firebirds spinner.

That Nofal and Bracewell are operating as Wellington's main spinners tells you the story. Peter Younghusband was promoted to the Firebirds 1st 11 to play Canterbuy, but he only bowled 9ov of his leggies. Nofal has 13w @ 17avg/3.40rpo this season and he's not only stepped up in the absence of Patel, but specifically in round two, Wellington were missing Hamish Bennett, Ollie Newton, Ben Sears and Rachin Ravindra; Bennett and Newton are 1st 11 bowlers, Ravindra's a handy spin option and Sears got the start for round one.

Wellington still had Logan van Beek and Ian McPeake is a reliable seamer - exactly the type of bowler you want in your squad as he will do his job and plug a hole. McPeake took 3w vs Canterbury (2, 1) and has a career average of 30.06, then Wellington called on Jamie Gibson and Michael Snedden to form their bowling attack. Regardless of how much Wellington trust their depth and they obviously believe in their talent, with a second-string bowling attack, guys like Nofal and van Beek had to lead the way. Nofal and van Beek accounted for 9 of the total 19 wickets Wellington took vs Canterbuy and Nofal was the chief-destroyer.

Todd Astle hit 33 off 15 balls in the second innings, as Canterbury tried to chase down 358 to win and fell for 313. Astle hit 5 fours, 2 sixes and all of them came off Nofal's bowling, so when Nofal took Astle's wicket...

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As for Canterbury, they have taken a total of 19 wickets in two games. Last round they only got through an innings bowling vs Knights, so take this with a grain of salt for now. There are some concerning signs, like Will Williams being the best Cantab bowler so far with 5w @ 30.20avg, although it's the Blackcaps battlers who aren't quite offering the domination they have previously; Matt Henry has 4w @ 56.25avg and Todd Astle has 3w @ 88avg.

The general vibe from ND's bowling effort in losing to CD, was the combination of Trent Boult and Neil Wagner. Brett Randell (3w @ 2.08rpo) and James Baker (2w @ 2.41rpo) did what they do in the first innings, while Boult took 1w @ 4.07rpo and Wagner took 3w @ 3.49rpo. The second dig saw Boult knock the top off CD's batting line up, taking 4w @ 4rpo and all 4w were in CD's top-five, while Wagner took 5w @ 3.29rpo and they were all in the bottom half of CD's batting line up.

Wagner took 8w total vs CD and the only top-order wicket he took, had him catching Greg Hay's inside edge and back on to the stumps...

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Usually, this is a key indicator of 'ease up, he's bullying tail-enders'. That's Wagner's whole schtick though and as Wagner has that proven history of being a decent Test bowler, he's merely doing his job for the team in wrapping up the tail. Wagner has 11w @ 26.90avg/3.68rpo and Boult has 8w @ 32avg/3.71rpo, which is a solid opening for the Blackcaps seamers.

The Stags promoted Ray Toole and Jarrod McKay to their bowling unit - which is ravaged by injury. They took 2w each and it was Toole who caught my eye with this first innings wicket of Peter Bocock, climbing up on Bocock with that lefty-angle and with Schmulian under the lid at … umm, short third slip? ...

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Like Wellington, CD have had to rely on greater output from someone to absorb the losses of front-line seamers and for the Stags, it's Ludick. With 2w and 1w vs Knights, Ludick was solid without being spectacular, taking him to 9w @ 15.33avg/2.11rpo and last season Ludick wasn't even in the top-44 wicket-takers. This season Ludick has churned out 65 overs and been heavily relied on to do a job with his wicket-to-wicker seamers and I'll be interested in how Ludick goes in terms of work-rate and production when the Stags bowling group is bolstered by returning players.

There's only one bloke to finish on and I go back around to Schmulian, who kinda stole the game away from ND in the second innings with 4w @ 2.06rpo in 16.3ov. Schmulian dismissed opener Henry Cooper after Cooper had faced 134 balls for 37, then he snared Watling after 88 balls (44 runs) and Peter Bocock after 30 balls (14 runs) which I find notable because all those batsmen settled into their innings. Schmulian's leggies turned the game in favour of the Stags, then Schmulian went through Wagner's gate to seal the win.

Schmulian has 4w @ 9.50avg overall, while also averaging 59.33 with the bat after two games. Career wise, Schmulian averages 40 with the bat and 23.75 with the ball and that's a record that anyone who dabbles in all-round cricket antics would be chuffed with.

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