The 'winner' of Aotearoa's Plunket Shield was decided in the worst way, when Canterbury opted out of their remaining game against Wellington Firebirds at the Basin Reserve. No further explanation or expansion on that is required and as a salute to the Cantabrians, in this chapter of the Domestic Cricket Daily, I'll be paying tribute to the best performers from Canterbury throughout the Plunket Shield.
Funnily enough, Canterbury were the last team in contention to ruffle Central Districts Stags fur, despite not having any batsmen or bowlers in the top-five run-scorers or wicket-takers. This generally means that Canterbury finish in second (I'm not gonna include how the last round impacts the points table) on the back of having no genuine star performer. Star performer in the sense of someone who dominated the Plunket Shield over the course of the summer, like Devon Conway and Hamish Bennett for Wellington.
Canterbury did however have two lads who dominated when they played in Matt Henry and Stephen Murdoch. Henry played four games and Murdoch five, finishing the season just outside the top-five (again, as the stats stand as of Tuesday morning) via some rather bonkers performances that deserve an almighty paki paki.
Three of Murdoch's five games came in the second stanza and four of his six 50+ scores came in that second stanza stint. Murdoch had 6inns through this period and even when he wasn't passing 50, Murdoch was still either scoring runs or not out; 56, 47, 60, 62*, 130*, 11*.
Murdoch finishes with an average of 73.83, 443 runs via one century and four half-centuries in 9inns. Also noteworthy here is that Murdoch did this as the main leader of the Canterbury batting line up, given the young tinge to the Cantabs, headlined by skipper Cole McConchie who is 27yrs. For their last game vs Auckland, Canterbury's rolled out Chad Bowes (26yrs), Jack Boyle (22yrs), Murdoch (35yrs), McConchie (27yrs) and Cameron Fletcher (26yrs).
While Canterbury didn't have a super dominant force at the top of the run-scoring rankings, the contributions of their young lads can't be overlooked. Fletcher has put himself back in the wider wicket-keeper/batsman prospect mixer, finishing behind Murdoch for Canterbury runs and then Canterbury had McConchie and Carter as the other batsmen who scored 200+ runs. All with lovely averages...
Fletcher: 414 runs @ 46avg.
McConchie: 342 runs @ 42.75avg.
Carter: 279 runs @ 39.85avg.
Before wiggling on to Henry's nek level numbers, McConchie deserves further celebration for his all-round antics. Take that batting average of 42.75 and then combine it with a bowling average of 22.91 via 12w @ 3.06rpo, for an emphatic statistical double. Although his career stats aren't quite as emphatic, McConchie is slightly better than the 30/30 average mark which is always an interesting gauge of all-round ability. McConchie averages 31.56 with the bat, 28.78 with the ball in First-Class cricket and that's handy, especially given how his stronger work has come this season and last season.
Canterbury had a rotating cast of seamers, so it's difficult to mention one or two over the others. Fraser Sheat (2 games), Ed Nuttal (1), Henry Shipley (5), Kyle Jamieson (3), Will Williams (6) and Andrew Hazeldine (6) were all used at various points, with Henry sprinkled in when he was good to go. That feels like a lot of seamers and while I've got nothing to back this up, it feels like Canterbury used the most seamers of any domestic team.
As for Henry, prior to playing the second Test for Aotearoa vs Bangladesh, Henry had 23 wickets @ 21.17avg. Remember what Henry did for Kent last winter over on the Kiwi County Tour? Allow me to remind you; 75w @ 15.48avg. There's not much more to be said about Henry as we are constantly being reminded of what he can do at this level and having suggested that Henry was the underground king of kiwi cricket prior to this summer, this has only be reinforced by another barn-storming Plunket Shield effort.
Chur to Todd Astle as well, who despite appearing to be the favoured Blackcaps Test spinner, isn't exactly in a more favourable position than the other spinners. That sounds very weird, but essentially simply goes back to my idea of all the kiwi spinners (Astle, Ajaz Patel, Will Somerville, Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner) are at the same level and it's purely your opinion that determines who is better. Astle isn't exactly in a more favourable position, because of his lack of involvement in the Bangladesh Test series and it's got to be rough to be selected, feel the buzz of having a chance to showcase your talents, only for you to not really have any chance of that.
What Astle did do however, either side of the first Test vs Bangladesh, was come back to Plunket Shield cricket and dominanted. That's admirable given the up and down nature of his Test selection ... kinda of his entire Blackcaps summer and for Astle to take 9w @ 17.11av in 3inns is a timely reminder of what he can do.
Remember that while Astle was chillin' with the Blackcaps, the other spinners were racking up wickets and perhaps putting themselves in the spotlight with Astle in the shadows, at the higher level. All you can control is how you react, how you respond and Astle responded with wickets.
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Peace and love 27.