Auckland Aces have sorted out their contracted players group for the upcoming season, led by recruiting Kyle Jamieson and Corey Anderson, with a strong foundation of now established domestic troopers. Jamieson and Anderson were announced as Auckland recruits in the first round of contracts, which I explored at the time and Auckland have now added lefty spinner Louis Delport into their group.
Delport has played two Plunket Shield games for Auckland already, stretched across the last two seasons and before coming to Aotearoa, Delport also played a few games for Western Province in South Africa. Having been on the Auckland scene since 2015, Delport doesn't quite have the First Class record in South Africa that someone like Devon Conway did, yet Delport will be an interesting spin option alongside Will Somerville.
Somerville is 34-years-old and Delport's 31, giving the Aces experienced tweakers to go with their rather stacked seam bowling department. The two spinners offer variety in spinning the ball opposite ways, although Somerville will definitely start as the main spinner and Auckland also have job-doing spinners in Glenn Phillips and Robbie O'Donnell; both bowled a bunch of overs in the second stanza of Plunket Shield last season.
The arrivals of Jamieson and Anderson give Auckland a hefty boost in their seam bowling as the likes of Jamie Brown, Danru Ferns and Ben Lister are still sussing out their craft. Those three have enjoyed plenty of opportunities though in recent seasons and could very easily level up this summer, which would give Auckland a rather threatening seam department. Matt McEwan is the pick of the bunch though and the core of McEwan, Jamieson and Somerville (Anderson's gotta be healthy), with the others sprinkled on top will be a bowling unit to keep close tabs on.
Especially as the young batting group has now morphed into a steady domestic batting line up. Mark Chapman, Glenn Phillips, Sean Solia, Robbie O'Donnell and Craig Cachopa have all played consistent domestic cricket for a while now and we have seen wee breakout moments for all of them throughout this period. How new coach Heinrich Malan gets this group of batsmen firing will be crucial to their season and Malan has a clear record of success in getting the most out of young batsmen as the Central Districts Stags coach.
Graeme Beghin looks set to get a decent crack at opening for Auckland and any of the other batsmen could slide up the order to partner Beghin. That's due to a slight gap in the specific opener position and earlier this year Martin Guptill plugged the hole when available, but the use of Sean Solia as an opener is what is most intriguing. Solia hit a 50+ score in each of the last three Plunket Shield games last season, with an 81 in the last game when Solia opened and while Solia's probably best at #3 or in the middle order, there's a gap and Solia has the talent to step up.
The depth of middle order batsmen is also a factor considering that O'Donnell, Chapman and Phillips are all set to start in those middle order roles. Finn Allen is a 22-year-old batsman who will be trying to crack that middle order and his selection could depend on when Anderson is available. Alternatively, Allen could be a funky opening option.
My initial though when sussing out Auckland's strength, was their seam attack with the reliable spin of Somerville. However, both Jamieson and Anderson have battled plenty of injuries throughout their careers, so there isn't a whole lot of certainty yet of seeing Jamieson especially, in action consistently. That's when I flow into the group of Chapman, Solia, Phillips and O'Donnell who have earned their stripes on the domestic circuit and will be keen to rise above, out of Aotearoa's gang of young batsmen.
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