McClenaghan rips through Sri Lankan lineup as Blackcaps win

The Blackcaps have taken a 1-0 lead over Sri Lanka thanks large in part to Mitchell McClenaghan and Corey Anderson.

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After Sri Lanka surprised many by electing to bat first, Blackcaps bowlers performed well and restricted the dangerous Sri Lankan batting lineup to a pedestrian total of 218.

Mahela Jayawardene was the only real stand out batsmen for Sri Lanka.

Jayawardene showed his batting class once again with a superb score of 104 as the former Sri Lankan captain played many roles during his innings. Jayawardene was not only aggressive when needed, but he also took to some risky platform shots which sent the ball over behind the slip cordon and was also at times a big anchor to the innings as wickets were falling around him.

Adam Milne picked up 2 wickets while Mitchell McClenaghan put in one of his best performances as a bowler for the Blackcaps in ODI cricket, taking 4 wickets including a triple-wicket maiden over.

The run chase got off to a fiery start as Brendon McCullum smashed 51 off just 22 balls on his return to the top of the order.

With an RRPO of just 4 per over, McCullum’s quick run scoring came in handy later on in the innings as wickets quickly began to fall after his dismissal.

With the Blackcaps in a little trouble following a quick succession of wickets, Corey Anderson played arguably his most mature innings yet for the Blackcaps, scoring 81 and batting together with Nathan McCullum to bring the Blackcaps home to victory.

There are two main points of concern for the Blackcaps from this run chase.

Martin Guptill was dismissed on just his third delivery after playing so well for the Auckland Aces recently, and also Grant Elliott only managed a single run before being bowled as he tried to cut a ball that was too close to his body, he too coming off recent success in domestic cricket.

Not a brilliant performance with the bat undoubtably, and if Sri Lanka had have gotten perhaps 50 more runs this match could well have been a different story.

But the Blackcaps bowlers stood up today and as competition for spots in the bowling lineup in particular heats up, Mitchell McClenaghan will go to sleep tonight knowing he could have just staked his claim for preferential bowling choice in the World Cup.

Adam Milne must perform in series opener

With the Sri Lankan ODI series beginning tomorrow, so also begins the final test for the Blackcaps ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup.

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Sri Lanka welcome back two star batsmen in the form of Tillekaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene, and threatening allrounder Thisara Perera also returns to the side and all will take to the field tomorrow at Hagley Oval in Christchurch.

Ross Taylor and Tim Southee miss out for the Blackcaps while Grant Elliot gets his first ODI appearance in 14 months.

As the 7-match ODI series begins, it is important that the Blackcaps carry over their winning form from the recent test series and more runs for Brendon McCullum, who is likely to return to the opening batting role tomorrow, will be at the height of fans wishes.

It is important that Martin Guptill also fires backing up from good form in the Ford Trophy.

Adam Milne will also get a chance to sway growing opinion around the country that his place in the squad isn’t as deserving as that of snubbed Matt Henry. Stats clearly show that Henry has taken plenty more wickets in far fewer games than Milne, so it is crucial that Milne finds a few Sri Lankan wickets right from the get go.

Both Daniel Vettori and Nathan McCullum will play tomorrow also as the Blackcaps field 3 potential spinning options also including vice captain Kane Williamson.

While it would be forgivable, a loss isn’t what the Blackcaps need just as the New Zealand public is beginning to really get behind them.

Rotation is going to happen a lot in this series, the coaches want each player to get as much game time as possible prior to the World Cup, but whatever the results from the opening few games of this series it is crucial that the little things are done well.

The Blackcaps also need to remember that whichever way Sri Lanka perform in this ODI series should in no way be a screenshot for what their form will be come World Cup time either.

And so it begins, the final month of cricket before the big one.

Look for the Blackcap bowlers to target Dilshan at the top order as the series rolls on. It is imperative that Milne takes wickets in bunches this series, and the top five need to all put in significant runs in successive bats.

World Cup squad leaves Neesham and Henry out

Grant Elliott has charged into the Blackcaps CWC squad as one of the major surprises from today’s announcement down at Hagley Oval in Christchurch.

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After being a fairly regular starter in the shorter form of the game recently, Jimmy Neesham has missed out on selection to the World Cup to make way for Elliott who hasn’t played an ODI for the Blackcaps in 14 months.

Matt Henry was the other notable name not present in the squad.

The selectors chose the pace of Adam Milne who was Henry’s closest rival for the Blackcaps bowling position.

Many are already questioning the decision to leave Neesham out of the squad.

Grant Elliott has been a reasonably solid performer with both bat and ball for the Blackcaps, but many would have scoffed at his selection prior to today due to the lack of time that the Firebirds all rounder has had in the unit, really since the English tour back in 2013.

Elliot’s most recent cricket competition has been in the New Zealand domestic scene. A big step down from international cricket.

But stats show that Elliott bats with an average of 29 in ODI cricket for New Zealand, and he has an economy of just under 5 runs per over with the ball.

It is hard to say that Elliott’s selection over Neesham was expected, because it wasn’t, but in terms of ODI stats Elliott is the much better option with the bat, yet both players are fairly even with their bowling credentials.

Anton Devcich also did not make selection.

His absence, and skill as a primary opening batsmen now leaves an interesting decision for the selectors, once again in the dreaded opening pairing situation.

Brendon McCullum will now surely be the likely partner for Martin Guptill at the top of the order, but other options are Kane Williamson or Tom Latham. Williamson and McCullum are both in good form with the bat currently this summer.

Expect both McCullum and Williamson to open the batting alongside Guptill during the Sri Lankan and Pakistan ODI series’ prior to the World Cup.

None of the selections in this Blackcaps CWC squad are bad ones.

Elliott’s selection based on his stats is a good one. Many will wonder why Matt Henry in particular didn’t make the squad after his good showings in the UAE recently, and despite the experience and consistency of Kyle Mills, some will wonder why the Blackcaps didn’t take a punt with a young talented fast bowler like Henry who clearly can bowl well against top class opposition.

For mind, the Blackcaps could also use one more specialist batsmen in this squad just to add a little more batting depth during what will be a batter friendly Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Blackcaps 2015 CWC Squad:

Brendon McCullum (captain) – Otago Volts
Corey Anderson – Northern Knights
Trent Boult – Northern Knights
Grant Elliott – Wellington Firebirds
Martin Guptill – Auckland Aces
Tom Latham – Canterbury
Mitchell McClenaghan – Auckland Aces
Nathan McCullum – Otago Volts
Kyle Mills – Auckland Aces
Adam Milne – Central Stags
Luke Ronchi – Wellington Firebirds
Tim Southee – Northern Knights
Ross Taylor – Central Stags
Dan Vettori – Northern Knights
Kane Williamson – Northern Knights

Michael Clarke’s career potentially over

The drama in cricket continued today after Australian captain Michael Clarke revealed his career may be over after yet another injury.

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After returning to the crease to bat on after suffering a back injury, Michael Clarke battled with his body throughout the first test against India, playing with a back injury that was being seduced by painkiller injections.

On the final day of the test match he tore his right hamstring while fielding.

The injury will see Clarke ruled out of the test series against India and potentially the rest of the summer.

But Clarke’s admission that his career may be over during the media conference took a few off guard.

The Australian skipper has been battling his body for a longtime now and has suffered five major notable injuries since March this year.

It is a cruel blow not only to Clarke himself, not only to the team, but also to world cricket because it just feels at the moment like one more comeback from injury and a sudden relapse again would call time on the career of Michael Clarke.

A career that despite all its amazing feats that will go down in history, is still so young.

Clarke still has so much to give to cricket, and it would be a terrific shame if he wasn’t able to come back from this.

Just last month Clarke injured his left hamstring, now he has torn his right hamstring.

But through it all Clarke has maintained that he has no regrets about returning to the field during the first test against India while suffering a back injury.

Clarke called it the most important game of his career.

It is also a game that in the worst case scenario for cricket, could well be Clarke’s last for Australia.

Whatever the next couple of months leading into the Cricket World Cup brings, and hopefully Clarke will be able to play again and be a part of that tournament, there is simply no denying that he is one of the bravest cricketers ever to play the game.

Firebirds become champions in thrilling Super Smash final

The Wellington Firebirds have won the 2014 Georgie Pie Super Smash after just edging out the Auckland Aces this afternoon at Seddon Park.

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It was the best game of the competition without doubt, and in the process the Firebirds have booked a ticket to domestic crickets premier competition, the Champions League.

Being sent in to bat, Michael Pollard again proved why he is an opening batsmen to watch closely as he blazed a magnificent 76 to help the Firebirds to a total of 186. James Franklin was explosive with the bat, sending two balls out of the park as he reached 31, before Grant Elliot chipped in with an aggressive 40 in the dying overs of the Firebirds innings.

Chasing 187 to win, the Auckland Aces kept themselves within a chance right throughout the run chase.

Craig Cachopa played an aggressive and smart innings, getting to 37 before being dismissed.

But watching the game there was a sense that if Colin Munro was at the crease, the Aces were in with a chance to bring it home. Munro put in arguably he best innings in the Aces uniform, blazing multiple sixes out of the ground, but was cruelly caught out on the boundary line as he tried to keep up with the growing run rate.

In the end, the Aces fell 6 runs short and kept themselves in the game right up until the end.

Cricket! Keep the bouncer in the game

The bouncer is an integral part of cricket, and nothing should change that.

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The cricketing world is in a deep state of mourning, and this afternoon the world will pause for one final farewell to the late Phillip Hughes.

Players from all over the world are expected to be in Macksville, including the entire Australian Test team as well as legends of the game including Brian Lara and Glenn McGrath.

There is simply no denying that the sudden death of Phil Hughes is the most tragic story in the history of cricket.

But through all the sadness, the fundamentals of cricket should not be changed. Talks of banning the short pitched ball commonly referred to as a bouncer are utterly idiotic.

Yes, even with the death of Hughes, talk of banning the bouncer as a result of all this is completely and utterly idiotic.

Getting rid of short pitched bowling would further favor the game of cricket towards the batsmen, and undoubtably the impact of this would result in a game that would slowly over time become less and less exciting.

Stuff columnist Mark Reason wrote a column this morning titled “Phillip Hughes death highlights cricket hypocrisy” discusses this very issue, and is one of the most silly things to be written in the wake of the Hughes tragedy.

In one particular line in Reason’s column, he writes that “the circumstances that led to the tragedy have been fostered by Clarke and others”. This is not only untrue and unfounded, but quite a disgusting comment to make in light of the current heartbreak Clarke and his Australian teammates are going through at the moment.

Excuse me Mr. Reason.

Calling cricket players hypocritical because they are so sad at the moment and your implying that because bowlers in recent games prior to Hughes death bowlers have implemented the bouncer as a tactic to get batsmen out is somehow reason for them to not be allowed to grieve is one of the most disgusting things anyone has written on this situation in the last week.

Sometimes you wonder why the NZ media has the faith to hire such writers.

The battle between Mitchell Johnson and the English batsmen last summer, although brutal, was one of the most exciting and edgy things cricket has seen in a long time.

Let’s not forget it was the Ashes.

For god sake ICC, please don’t change the fundamentals of cricket. Change nothing, the death of Phillip Hughes which honestly was just a freak accident and the game shouldn’t suffer because of it.

Blackcaps break record as tears for Phil Hughes continue to flow

The Blackcaps have broken the record books by scoring their highest ever test total of 690 this evening.

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Much has been made about the death of Phil Hughes, and Blackcaps have shown the ultimate almost careless show of respect to the Australian batsmen by putting on a clinic of attacking cricket rarely seen in the test game.

And the thing is, none of the achievements seen in this test match have been met with a single cheer by any player.

Such is the grief in world cricket at this moment in time.

Blackcaps captain Brendon McCullum along with vice captain Kane Williamson formed a partnership with has given the Blackcaps a tremendous lead over Pakistan, and breaking a record along the way as well.

McCullum scored a double century, ending on 202 and became only the fourth batsmen in world cricket to score three double-test centuries in a calendar year.

Kane Williamson came close to a double century also, but was dismissed just shy of the feat on 192.

The total of 690 is the highest ever scored by New Zealand in an international cricket test.

In a statement to the Hughes family, Brendon McCullum said the focus in the Blackcaps camp throughout this test hasn’t been the performance, instead the thoughts and emotions towards Phil Hughes who tragically lost his life on Thursday.

Ryder named in New Zealand A squad

NZ Cricket has confirmed that Jesse Ryder will make his first steps to a Blackcaps return.

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Ryder has been named in the New Zealand A squad to play four One Day Internationals in the UAE in November.

It marks the first time Ryder has represented New Zealand since January.

Ryder was axed from the Blackcaps following a night out drinking before the beginning of a test match against India.

Ryder’s form for Essex during the winter was outstanding, and upon his return to New Zealand with the Otago Volts, Ryder smashed a century off just 39 balls against Ireland.

There is simply no doubting that Ryder is in the form of his life.

Ryder missed out on representing New Zealand A a few months ago, and was rumored to be not best pleased with NZC after missing out on the chance to prove himself again at the international level.

Jesse Ryder and his return to international cricket will be of high interest.

Kane Williamson proves aggressive T20 ability as Knights win Champions League opener

Kane Williamson has helped the Northern Knights beat the Southern Express in what ended up being an easy victory in their opening Champions League Twenty20 match.

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Given the superb start with the bat by Southern Express opening batsmen Kusal Perera, and the poor fielding which included an over with 3 dropped catches, 2 by BJ Watling and the other by Ish Sodhi, the Knights easy chase down of the 92 run set total in a rain affected match was all the more satisfying, and it has gotten the New Zealand Association off to the perfect start in the Champions League.

Ish Sodhi was one of the stand out bowlers, slowing the Southern Express down at a time when they were hitting boundaries at will.

In the Knights run chase, Kane Williamson starred, smashing 52 off 29 balls with a strike rate that was over 200 early on.

There has been much talk about Williamson and his place in Twenty20 cricket. Some have strongly argued against him batting at the top of the order, and others have argued even more passionately that he should stick to test and one day cricket.

Williamson silenced both those arguments in this match.

If the Knights stick with Williamson at the top of the order in the remaining Champions League qualifiers, the young man will have big incentive to prove that this recent knock wasn’t just a one off, and that he is capable of being just as aggressive as the best long hitters in world cricket in situations where it really matters.

Hats off to the Knights, a superb start to the Champions League, though there is still a long way to go.