Domestic Cricket Daily: Leader of the Pack Tom Blundell

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From sometimes wicket-keepers to those who strictly keep their cricketing business behind the stumps, there isn't any kind of shortage of kiwi wicket-keepers who dabble in run-scoring. Right now, behind BJ Watling sits Tom Blundell, the Wellington Firebirds wickie who played a couple of Tests, hit a hundy and walked home. Since then, Blundell has been lurking on the fringes of the Blackcaps and even though Blundell played no Blackcaps cricket last summer, it was Blundell who enjoyed a cricketing holiday in England during the World Cup.

Blundell has done a fabulous job of lurking on the Blackcaps fringes and that's all you can ask for from someone who is trying to hit the nek level. In that awkward pre-World Cup series in Australia, Blundell hit a 77 in the first of three 50-over games, then came scores of 13*, 11 and 0* before Blundell hit 106 in the final World Cup warm up game vs West Indies.

While none of those games were full banger ODIs, Blundell put runs on the board and those runs look even more scrumptious considering that Blundell hit 52 and 100* in the last Plunket Shield game of the summer for Wellington. That's in keeping with Blundell's career landscape and in keeping with the trend that I've highlighted for Lockie Ferguson, Glenn Phillips and as you'll see below Tim Seifert; their best formats by a hefty margin are First-Class.

With a FC average of 37.74, Blundell has averaged 40+ in four of his seven FC seasons. The two seasons in which Blundell avearged mid-20s, were his first and third seasons which ultimately means that Blundell thoroughly deserved his Test debut as well as being next in line behind Watling. Upon reflection, Blundell's World Cup selection gets a wee bit weird when Blundell didn't play any Ford Trophy cricket (50-over) last summer and that Blundell has averaged 30+ in just one of his six List-A seasons.

In FC cricket, Blundell is a gun. In List-A cricket, there isn't much to suggest that Blundell leads the wicket-keeping whanau. Perhaps that's why Blundell's World Cup selection depended *apparently* on a hand injury to Seifert and while I can chuck up some nerdy domestic cricket wicket-keepers to highlight Aotearoa's depth, Seifert feels like the main contender to take Blundell's fringe Blackcaps spot.

Seifert's already there in T20I cricket and there is a high chance that Seifert will develop into the prime wicket-keeping candidate for World T20 next year. To suggest that Seifert's a white-ball whacker though, would be foolish as his FC average of 37.51 is a smidge below Blundell's (37.74) and Seifert has averaged 30+ in four of his five FC seasons. Seifert may lack the consistent 40+ averages of Blundell, yet Seifert does have the 2017/18 Plunket Shield in which he finished 3rd in runs averaging 50.21.

However you want to slice and dice the numbers, Blundell generally sits ahead of Seifert and Seifert's coming in hot. It's actually kinda messy when I introduce the idea of Aotearoa having Watling, Tom Latham, Blundell and Seifert who are all in the boil up, then another characters such as Glenn Phillips has played the role at international level and Cameron Fletcher slid into Aotearoa A antics last summer. Again though, Blundell and Seifert seem to be the lads who will take the Blackcaps forward in terms of wicket-keeping.

While on the topic, I want to throw it out there that Latham's ODI spot may not be locked in like his Test spot. Latham will hold on to his #5 bat/wk role in the Blackcaps ODI team for a while yet, but a minor trend has emerged in Latham's ODI run-scoring where his annual average has dipped below 30 in 2018 and 2019, after being over 35 for 2015, 17 and 18. For Latham to be in any type of danger, he'd need to continue to slide while Seifert (or Blundell) trend well and that's a lot of moving parts involved there, so it's merely an idea to keep in the background.

All these yarns come back around to starting Plunket Shield in mid-October. I'm especially intrigued as to how Blundell fires up, because he is unlikely to be involved in the T20I series vs England which will give him a few rounds to settle into four-day cricket. If Blundell can continue his FC work, to average 35-40 across the opening rounds, then he may not only fight off the long-form challenge from Seifert, but Blundell may start to build a slither of pressure on Watling as the incumbent.

While Blundell hasn't played any international cricket since February 2018, he has been involved in that pre-World Cup series in Australia that felt like a level above 'A' cricket and was then in a World Cup squad. Then Blundell went to Sri Lanka as part of the Test squad, all in one year and one would believe that this will have Blundell in great position to start the Plunket Shield campaign. Plenty of runs for Wellington could serve up a funky wee situation ahead of what shapes as a massive summer of cricket.

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