Boasting teams stacked to the brim with kiwi cricketing talent, Central Districts Stags and Northern Districts Knights went to battle in the Super Smash final over the weekend. The Stags won, as they tend to do via a monumental bowling effort in skittlin’ ND for 80 after posting a target of 147/8 first up.
Most of the Stags runs came via Dean Foxcroft as he continues his breakout summer, hitting 63 off 50 balls against a bowling attack of internationals; Tim Southee, Kyle Abbott (South Africa), Scott Kuggeleijn, Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner and Daryl Mitchell. Adam Milne then played chief-destroyer with 3w @ 4.50rpo from 2.4ov, along with lefty Ajaz Patel who snared 3w @ 8rpo from 3ov. Doug Bracewell took 2w @ 3.33, Seth Rance took 1w @ 7rpo and Blair Tickner took 1w @ 3.67rpo to ensure that all Stags bowlers finished with a wicket.
To some extent, perhaps a funky extent, the performances from the Stags win reflect the standing of their individuals among the most runs/wickets in the Super Smash. Tom Bruce was 2nd in runs with Wellington's Devon Conway at the top of the list and then Will Young was 4th in runs, yet neither did anything of note in the final with Young gone for a duck and Bruce plodding along to 10 off 14 balls.
All the Stags attention has been zoned in on Young for semi-casual kiwi cricket fans, then anyone who has been paying attention to the Super Smash would have thrown up Bruce's work as being noteworthy. I'll repeat this idea when I get to the bowlers because it's the same yarn, but the emergence of Foxcroft to be the leading contributor in the final and finishing 6th in Super Smash runs (270 runs @ 30avg/123.85sr) is the nugget ... or taonga.
We need context to absorb this Super Smash work of Foxcroft; he averaged 51.80 through 6 Ford Trophy innings, with a strike-rate of 94.52. Oh and this is his first summer of domestic cricket in Aotearoa, as another young kiwi-African contributing to cricket in Aotearoa. This is a dude who average 51.80 in his first Ford Trophy campaign (ranked 21st via a lack of games), then finished 6th in Super Smash runs and was the only batsman to score 20+ runs in the final.
The Stags are the Central Districts Stags because of guys like Foxcroft. There is a production line of talent that ensures the Stags are never far from the top of any domestic competition, regardless of who is stepping up to the Blackcaps level. In a rather strange note, given what I just said, we are currently witnessing a George Worker slump.
While everyone was fluffing around about the Blackcaps ODI openers, Worker was battling through the Super Smash to finish with an average of 18.36. There was a two game bonanza for Worker in which he hit 44 and 52 leading into the elimination final, which amounted to 96 of his 202 Super Smash runs. That means that in 9inns, Worker scored 106 runs and that effectively saw Worker vanish from the Blackcaps opener discussion.
With the Stags bowlers, Blair Tickner is the headline act in terms of T20 cricket having worked his way into the Blackcaps. The Super Smash final, was however Adam Milne's third game back from injury, having last played over in United Arab Emirates late last year. Milne knocked over Knights opener Nick Kelly and then came back to wrap up the tail later on, giving Milne 6w in 3inns @ 6.65rpo for his Super Smash campaign.
Bracewell was also impressive as his 2w came at the top, sending Tim Seifert and Dean Brownlie back to the sheds. The funkiest Stags bowler for me though, was Patel, who finished the Super Smash with the most spinning wickets; 12w @ 23.25avg/9.30rpo. Jeetan Patel, Roneel Hira, Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi all finished with better averages than Ajaz's and all took 9+ wickets, meaning that Ajaz was a bit expensive, yet he featured strongly in the final and consistently took wickets.
Foxcroft's emergence is a nod to the kiwi-African crew and we've got another reminder of the kiwi-Indian presence in the spin department as Ajaz, Jeetan, Hira and Sodhi all took 9+ wickets with averages below 24. Chur to Santner for holding it down for the pakeha spinners.
Ajaz isn't exactly known for his T20 prowess and this Super Smash campaign is merely a continuation of his development, seeing as he's consistently adding to his game. This has seen Patel overshadowed by the likes of Sodhi in the Super Smash, yet it's Patel who has a T20 average of 23.34 and took a wicket in all but 1inns in the Super Smash.
One could make a fairly comprehensive case that Ajaz Patel is the most well-rounded spinner in Aotearoa right now. Patel is among the best, if not the best spinner in every format in Aotearoa and has built his game around consistently solid performances no matter the format. Whether it's Patel low key blossoming into an all-format weapon or lads like Foxcroft breaking into domestic cricket, CD Stags always have a certain level of finesse to their dominance.
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Peace and love 27.