Australian tour of New Zealand - February 2018
Over-50s cricket started in New Zealand in September of 2017, when the Australian Over-50s announced their intention to tour NZ and needed a team to play against.
With no existing infrastructure or database of players, initial efforts were made to assemble a national side from a handful of nominations. The net was cast as wide as was possible at the time, with some support from New Zealand Cricket and the NZCPA, plus word-of-mouth contacts. However, the selection process was limited and there were no opportunities for trial matches.
Consequently, the XI that took the field in Nelson in February of 2018 was a somewhat random assortment of players. Established former first-class cricketers like Richard Petrie, Andrew Nuttall, Adrian Dale and Dean Askew lined up alongside club players. The Australian side was not fully representative either, due to political issues in that country. Nevertheless, when Askew bowled the first ball to Australian opener Andrew Knight, there was no doubt that all players were fully motivated and considered these to be full international matches.
Australia scored 151 on a slow Marsden Rec wicket, with Nuttall (4/15 from 10 overs) and Wanganui off-spinner Martin Pennefather (3/22 from 10) doing the damage. Nuttall - already 60 years of age but still a masterful slow left-arm bowler - showed an ability to both contain and take wickets, while Pennefather's seemingly innocuous offies were unfailingly accurate. Australian batsman Peter Solway scored 66 on his debut. Nuttall and Solway have since gone on to be two of the stars of the over-50s game at the international level.
The untested NZ top order didn't last long against some lively Australian bowling and NZ was quickly 17/3 and then 34/4. Local boy Mason Robinson dug in and started to counter-attack with some trademark punches and on-drives. At 104/8 the chase still looked like a lost cause, but Askew whistled two sixes into the trees and the score was suddenly 137/8 - only 15 runs short. However, the experienced Greg Briggs snaffled Askew and Robinson (for a gutsy 59) in quick succession and the Kiwis finished an agonising 13 runs short.
Cyclone Gita caused the cancellation of the second match, meaning that New Zealand had to win the third match to claim a share of the newly minted Stirling Hamman Trophy. The venue was the beautiful but tiny Titoki CC ground. Australia never got going (Solway top-scored with 24), as Nuttall (3/14 from 7) and Petrie (3/16 from 10) protected the short boundaries. The Aussie total of 116 should never have been enough and New Zealand won comfortably, reaching the target for the loss of 6 wickets. Each of the teams had registered their first wins at this level, with Australia having lost all three of the international matches on its UK tour in 2017.
For more on these matches, please click here. The scorecards are available for Match 1 and Match 2. SkyTV did a piece on the series for The Cricket Show [video quality not great].
The fact that this series was played at the end of the 2017/18 season meant that further trials were again impossible before the next international assignment - the 2018 Over-50s World Cup. Despite some players having had only one chance to state their claim, several changes were made to the squad that would head to Sydney in November of 2018.
World Cup Warm-up Matches - October 2018
Prior to departing for that trip, the NZ squad played two warm-up matches against the Riverina Over-50s side from New South Wales. Riverina lost to a Canterbury Over-50s side, with Graeme Inglis responding to his exclusion from the World Cup squad with an elegant match-winning 51* on his home ground. The New Zealand XI (missing a couple of players) did not excel against the tourists, managing 185/9 in the first game (ex-Wellington player and indoor cricket legend Robbie Kerr top-scoring with 55) but the Canterbury left-arm spin duo of Nuttall (4/31) and Hamish Kember (3/9) rolled the tourists for 132.
In the second match, at Burnside Park, New Zealand did a bit better, hitting 204, led by aggressive 60s from Mike Jamieson and Petrie, before dismissing the Aussie club side for 156 (Dave Leonard 3/12, Nuttall 2/19).
2018 Over-50s World Cup
While these performances were not convincing, it was a confident New Zealand side that headed to the inaugural Over-50s World Cup under the captaincy of Auckland’s Nigel Fletcher. The team was sponsored by Forum8, a Japanese software company.
The Greycaps’ first opposition was a strong Pakistan side that included 4 ex-internationals. Those 4 did most of the scoring as Pakistan recovered from 167/6 after 35 overs to record an excellent 231/9 from 45. Dale (3/45) and Nuttall (3/41) were the pick of the bowlers. New Zealand made a poor start, losing Brent Fleming, Jamieson and Fletcher to be 12/3 after 7 overs. At 37/5, Robinson joined Dale and the two put on a fantastic 110-run partnership, playing the spinners particularly well, to bring NZ back into contention. Former county pro Dale fell for 61 but Robinson pushed on. When he fell for 75 (78 balls), New Zealand were 195/8 and required 36 from 4 overs, but couldn’t quite get home. Scorecard.
Match 2 would be no easier, against the fancied hosts Australia at Bexley Oval. New Zealand won the toss and batted first this time. Jamieson again fell early, for a duck, and when Fletcher was stumped for 4 they were tottering at 60/4. Another resilient partnership, this time 92 from debutants David Fulton (63) and Kerr (48), helped NZ to a reasonable 171/7. This proved insufficient, as the clinical Solway (83) took the Aussies home. It was a close-run thing, however, as the Kiwis grabbed 8 wickets on the way, three to the scrappy Lincoln Doull (3/32), and dropping Solway at a crucial time could have made the difference. Scorecard.
With two losses from two matches, the Greycaps needed to turn things around quickly to have a chance of making the semis. Against Canada, Adrian Dale showed his class with a superb 102, stroking the ball all around the stunning Rosedale Oval (watch him bring up his ton here). Kerr was typically busy en route to 50 from 40 balls. The unpredictable Canadians made a great chase of 230, with Shantha Jayasekera’s 61 nearly getting them home. A decent all-round bowling effort from NZ, particularly from Pete Escott and Fulton at the death, was enough to get the team in black home. Scorecard.
Escott was again to the fore against Wales, taking 4/13 and reducing the Welsh to 153. Richard Petrie made his first appearance of the tournament following injury, and he and Robinson (also returning from injury) put on 121 for the first wicket in a new-look opening partnership. Both made 60s and New Zealand had a comfortable win. Scorecard. Watch highlights here.
The match against Sri Lanka was abandoned after heavy rain, so the next match was against England, out of town at the beautiful and historic Bradman Oval in Bowral. Led by a stroke-filled 97 from Simon Myles, England reached a good score of 232/8, with the wickets shared around. Another good partnership from Petrie and Robinson gave NZ a solid base, but they fell behind the run rate in the process. From 88/0, the middle order failed and when Petrie (64) fell at 126/6, the game was all but lost. New Zealand finished on a paltry 173 as England’s star all-rounder Stephen Foster nabbed 6/30. Scorecard.
Needing to beat the battle-weary South Africans to qualify for the semis, the Kiwis put in a solid performance. Five of the six bowlers took 2 wickets each as SA struggled to 176. Petrie (70), Robinson (66) and Leonard (25) were all not out as NZ cruised home with 8 wickets in hand. Scorecard.
This set up a semi-final rematch against Australia on a batting paradise at Hurstville Oval. Australia raced to 63 after 10 overs, as Trent Ryan and the seemingly undismissable Peter Solway scored runs at will. When Solway did eventually fall, for 88, the damage had been done and the Australian total of 273/6 was an intimidating one. None of the Kiwi bowlers were spared. Needing 6 an over from the outset, New Zealand started well too and were 62/1 after 11. Dale batted beautifully again, top-scoring with 76, receiving good support from Robinson (34), Kerr (38) and Escott (28). With 5 overs to go, 46 were needed with 3 wickets in hand. The equation got tighter and eventually tail-enders Doull and Pennefather needed 17 off the last over, to be bowled by Aussie veteran Tim Sargent. Twelve runs were somehow scrambled off the first five balls, including some great hits down the ground – and suddenly New Zealand needed 6 to win off the last ball … with tournament ambassador Trevor Chappell watching from the stands. Pennefather’s wild heave went most of the way to the boundary but not far enough and he was caught, ending a thrilling game. You can watch the final over here. Scorecard.
Australia went on to win the final against Pakistan and New Zealand, beaten but not bowed, returned home to learn some lessons and regroup.
North Island vs South Island
Two inter-island matches were held in March of 2019. They were originally intended to be fully representative teams, but some late withdrawals compromised the selections slightly. Nevertheless, two enjoyable – albeit weather-affected – matches were held in Nelson. The first game, at Saxton Oval, was reduced to a 20-over-a-side affair. South Island hit 146/2, with Craig Gibb (53), Dave Leonard (31* from 21) and newcomer Kelvin Scott (29* from 15) helping themselves to runs. North Island got 8 overs into their chase before rain ended the game.
In the second match, North Island scored 213/9 (Robbie Laird 41, Mark Gunning 38, Kember 3/36), but Kelvin Scott knocked off the target almost single-handedly with a stunning 99 from 53 balls.
Veterans Cricket New Zealand
Veterans Cricket New Zealand (VCNZ) was established as a charitable trust to coordinate over-50s, over-60s and over-70s cricket in this country. It is officially affiliated with New Zealand cricket, following a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2019. The over-50s are an independent arm of VCNZ.
The VCNZ website, which mainly focuses on over-60s cricket, can be found here.
One of the key issues for the over-50s to address was team selection. Various circumstances had made it impossible to hold trials in the past, but this situation was rectified with the first New Zealand Over-50s Inter-Provincial Tournament (IPT).
The tournament included 4 teams - the Auckland Cavaliers, the Districts Evergreens (the North Island apart from Auckland and Wellington), the Wellington/Tasman Firehawks, and the Canterbury/Otago Mainlanders - and was held in Christchurch in October of 2019.
Each team played each other and the Firehawks emerged victorious, defeating the Mainlanders in an exciting final at Hagley Park. The batting stars were Richard Petrie (204 runs at 102, including a century - see him bring it up here) and newcomers Bert Horner (180 runs at 90) and Dean Read (158 at 52). Auckland’s Rhys Henderson topped the wicket-taking list, with 8 at 11.88, just ahead of Pennefather with 7. The scorecards can be found here. Batting leaderboard. Bowling leaderboard.
At the completion of the tournament, the 16-man New Zealand squad for the 2020 World Cup was announced, featuring 9 changes from the 2018 group. Adrian Dale was named the new captain of the side.
New South Wales Over-50s Tour
New South Wales sent a strong side to Auckland to give the New Zealand squad some pre-World Cup practice. NSW beat Auckland Over-50s by 3 wickets in their first match. Dale weathered an early storm (Auckland were 22/4 after 8 overs) to score a run-a-ball 116, while Dean Busch celebrated a late call-up to the NZ squad with 73 not out. Scorecard.
The second match of the tour saw NSW play NZ and the hosts racked up 314/4 on a good batting pitch and rapid outfield at Papatoetoe CC. Former Otago batsman Andrew Hore scored 92 on his New Zealand debut, and he and Petrie added 148 for the first wicket. Rookies Kelvin Scott (33), John Garry (45*) and Dean Read (40* from 21 balls) were also in the runs. This proved enough, although NSW batsman Steve Mace made the locals work hard, hitting a polished 88 out of 280/9. Petrie took 2/41 from 8 and Scott bowled well for 1/25 from 6. Scorecard.
The last match was another high-scoring effort from New Zealand as they piled on 332. Garry hit an excellent 100 and Read smashed 84 from 48 balls. The tourists couldn’t compete on this occasion – although Mace impressed again, carrying his bat for 71* – and ended up 135 all out. Nuttall (3/16), Askew (3/39) and Scott (2/16 from 7) were the best bowlers. Scorecard.
Here are some brief video highlights of the NSW tour.
2020 Over-50s World Cup
After a lot of hype and build-up, the 2020 Over-50s World Cup took place in Cape Town, South Africa in March of 2020. The number of teams had expanded from 8 to 12, with traditional powerhouses India and West Indies joining the party. There was a tournament sponsor, lots of media coverage, tournament ambassadors such as Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock, and all games were live-streamed.
With a strong-looking team, New Zealand entered the tournament as one of the favourites. Barry Richards presented the new players with their caps before the start of the first match, against the West Indies. The favouritism seemed justified, as the Kiwis cruised along in the first 20 overs. However, the run out of John Garry for 34 precipitated a collapse from 124/2 to 186 all out as the Windies spinners made things tough on a quickly wearing pitch. Only Dale (56) passed 50. The target was a middling one and the aggressive West Indies start (29/0 after 5 overs) had some warning signs flashing. Slow left-arm spinner Glen White had other ideas and he took two LBWs off successive balls, one being the key wicket of Sudesh Dhaniram (this video shows that he nearly made it a hat-trick). From then on, New Zealand wrested control. Neil Ronaldson bowled straight with good pace and snaffled 4/18, while Nuttall bowled as masterfully as ever, taking 2/14 from 9 overs. Scorecard. Video highlights. Full match video.
The second match was a wonderful occasion due to the incredible welcome given by the students and staff of Milnerton High School. The cricket itself was less entertaining, as New Zealand found run-scoring difficult on a very slow pitch and slow outfield. Usually a free-scoring batsman, Richard Petrie ground his way to 36 from 95 balls as the Kiwis did well to get 157/7 from their 45 overs. The Canadians were confident at the break, but the wicket was only getting more difficult. They never got going and fell away from 31/2 to 59 all out as all the bowlers dominated. Nuttall (4/10 off 8.4 overs) was again to the fore, while new boy Stephen Hewson proved virtually impossible to hit, taking 1/8 from 7 overs. Scorecard. Video highlights. Full match video.
All seemed good going into the third match, against Zimbabwe. Dean Askew trapped ex-international Eddo Brandes LBW in the third over and only some late hitting took Zimbabwe to 144/8, with the wickets shared around. Scorecard. Video highlights. Full match video.
Then, at the innings break, came the bad news that the Covid-19 pandemic had forced the cancellation of the tournament. It was a shock to all involved, but the World Cup was done, effective immediately. With borders closing and isolation measures being implemented, there was a quick scramble for the players and supporters to get home. It was a tremendously sad end to the tournament, given all the efforts put in by all involved.
For all scorecards, stats and much more from the 2020 Over-50s World Cup, please click here.
With international travel severely limited, plans are being made for a makeshift 2020/21 season that will hopefully see a lot of domestic over-50s cricket and some international matches against our arch-rivals from across the Tasman.