Three batsmen scored over 600 runs in Plunket Shield this season and to say it's a weird mix of lads is an understatement. Wellington's Devon Conway led all run-scorers and he's a bloke who came to Aotearoa from South Africa with the type of First Class stats that most current kiwi cricketers would hope to finish with. This season, Conway merely laid a few more Plunket Shield bricks on top of those foundations.
This is a Plunket Shield wrap, but with Conway we need to celebrate the entire summer as being and almighty run-scoring buffet for Conway. The mark of a quality cricketer is how their craft translates across the three formats and while good players at any level can impress in a specific format, only the best are able to wiggle their way through a summer and absorb the adjustments without fuss.
With that in mind, I can't over-state how nek level Conway's summer of 2018/19 was. Things have been lovely for the Blackcaps Test batsmen and their work offers ample statistical pleasure of casual kiwi cricket fans. Ross Taylor dominated across all formats to continue his monumental post-surgery form and even for those who dabbling in scratching beneath the surface; Will Young thoroughly deserved what would have been his Test debut.
(Devon Conway won ‘Batsman of the Year’ 4 years in a row for Highveld Lions, then he came to Aotearoa. WTF)
There is not shortage of batting yarns to spin from this summer, but if you're not talking about Conway's all-format dominance, later bo. Conway was 1st in Super Smash runs, averaging 45.37 with a suitable strike-rate of 144.04 and he did so with only 1 not-out, which was also his only 50+ score. This means that Conway routinely did what T20 cricket requires; consistent scores around 30-40 with a good strike-rate.
Conway was also 5th in Ford Torphy runs, averaging 37.36 with a strike-rate of 79.96. Conway didn't hit a century, however his four 50+ scores was only behind his Wellington comrades Andrew Fletcher (six 50+ scores, 3 hundies/3 halfies split) and Jimmy Neesham (five, 2/3). Weird note I just picked up on: four of the top-five Ford Trophy run-scorers were born in South Africa.
Both his Super Smash and Plunket Shield numbers were boosted by hefty knocks as Conway was the only Super Smash batsman to hit a hundy and he scored 203 of his 659 runs in one Plunket Shield innings. The big dawg Greg Hay also hit a Plunket Shield double-hundy though with a score of 226, as well as putting up more 50+ scores than Conway (2/3 vs 2/2) and Hay had 1 more innings than Conway. Conway finished with 82.37avg/52.72sr which comes via 4 not-out innings and no player had more not-outs than Conway.
Those are just odd little factors that a super nerd might take into account when trying to differentiate between Conway and Hay. No differentiation is required, just appreciation the fact that Conway was a top-five batsmen in all three formats, 1st in Super Smash and Plunket Shield, deserves all sorts of appreciation.
For Hay, who finished 2nd in runs with 48.69av/43.83sr, this is simply status-quo. Conway's notable for his low key vibe (only true cricket nerds love themselves some Conway) and all-format dominance, Hay is notable because of how fuckin' awesome he is. My Domestic Cricket Daily love affair started a few years back and there has been a clear progression in Hay's Plunket Shield adventure during this time.
2015/16 had Hay 19th in runs, averaging 32.50.
2016/17 had Hay 11th in runs, averaging 36.66.
2017/18 had Hay 2nd in runs, averaging 60.46.
2018/19 had Hay 2nd in runs, averaging 48.69.
Hay currently has a FC averaging of 43.34 and all of his five 50+ scores came after the Ford Trophy, which means that Hay passed 50 in 5 of 10inns to finish his Plunket Shield campaign. Such is Hay's consistency, I've got Hay as the perfect bloke to step in for the Blackcaps Test team when an opening batsman is required.
This is a specific scenario, where Jeet Raval or Tom Latham is injured etc for a Test or series and Aotearoa needs a batsman who has proven himself and is best-equipped to make the jump without any room for development. If you're averaging over 40 after 73 FC games, you've got the runs and experience to warrant such a selection.
3rd in Plunket Shield runs this summer, was Auckland Aces batsman Glenn Phillips.
Take a moment, hit that buckie and let that simmer.
The young bloke who has been pigeon-holed as a T20 whacker, was 3rd in Plunket Shield runs. As you'd expect, Phillips did so with the most sixes of the five lads to score 500+ runs (11) and also with the highest strike-rate of not only the top-five, but also the 16 batsmen who scored 350+ runs (60.81sr).
Phillips did the bulk of his run-feasting in the second stanza of Plunket Shield, hitting four of his six 50+ scores in the last four games, including his century. This saw Phillips finish with an average of 76.25 and Sean Solia was the only other Auckland batsman to score over 400 runs (Solia had 414).
With an overall FC average of 41.73, Phillips doesn't get the four-day mentions that he probably should. Last summer he averaged a solid 31.81 and then going back to 2016/17, Phillips averaged 36.33. These performances are kinda more impressive when we consider that Phillips often has limited involvement in Plunket Shield cricket via his various T20 commitments and his last three Plunket Shield campaigns have seen Phillips play 4 (of 10), 6 (10) and 6 (8) games.
Phillips has hit a century in each of these three seasons, but the difference this summer was his consistency in churning out five half-centuries. Phillips finished with six 50+ scores in 10inns and in the last four games, the 2inns in which Phillips didn't pass 50, he had scores of 34 and 31. Again, the stereotype of Phillips has nothing to do with his Plunket Shield antics, but there is fairly clear evidence that Phillips is an impressive young batsman across all formats.
I'll be back to run through the notable bowlers from the Plunket Shield summer. Until then, enjoy Ish Sodhi's 36 wickets...
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Peace and love 27.