CDCA and Wellington were the big winners of 2018/19. All images: PHOTOSPORT

Domestic bliss: 2018/19 review

It was one for the books. Two repeat champions and a droughtbreaker were among the five major NZC Domestic titles handed out in 2018/19, while Devon Conway and Natalie Dodd edged the field as the individual stars of the season.

Their prolific run-scoring contributed to the two champion sides in the 50-over format — the Wellington Firebirds and Central Hinds.

Left-handed batsman Conway amassed 659 runs at an average of 82.37 in the Plunket Shield — he was averaging more than 100 until the penultimate round, then didn’t get to play the final round due to the match being abandoned. His scores included an unbeaten 203 and 156 not out.

Showing off his versatility, he was also the top runmaker in the Burger King Super Smash — just 10 runs ahead of overall Burger King Super Smash player of the season Tom Bruce. Conway hit 363 runs at 45.37 (top score an unbeaten 105*) and played a significant role in the victorious Ford Trophy campaign with 411 runs at 37.36.

Twelve-season veteran Dodd, who moved from Northern Spirit to the Hinds in the off-season, reinvigorated her game to the tune of 652 runs in the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield at an impressive average of 108, and claimed 22 dismissals to be the top wicketkeeeper to boot. Not only did she finally get to win a national trophy, but she lifted the prestigious Ruth Martin Cup for Domestic Batting as well as NZC's Domestic Player of the Year trophy.

In a season that started early in a warm spring and finished in a scorching dry summer, Hallyburton Johnstone Shield champions the Central Hinds were the big droughtbreakers — it was their first national trophy in either white ball format since the Aimee Watkins era in 2009/10.

The Ford Trophy, too, was a droughtbreaker of sorts for the Wellington Firebirds who broke Otago hearts on a stunning day in Dunedin by winning the Grand Final for the first time since 2013/14.

Coached by Glenn Pocknall for the first time, to get there the Firebirds had taken a three-wicket away win over the Auckland Aces at Eden Park — memorable for the reinvigorated Jimmy Neesham’s unbeaten 120*.

It proved to be perfect preparation for a high-scoring title showdown down south. In the Elimination Final, they had been chasing 237. In the Grand Final, they were asked to hunt down an almost identical target: 235 runs — which they did, for another three-wicket victory, with eight balls in hand. Talk about a dress rehearsal.

While the Volts were heartbroken, they could take consolation from it having been one of the hardest fought Ford Trophy Grand Finals in years. Qualifying top of the table for direct entry to a Dunedin home final was an exciting boost for the Volts and their supporters after having struggled to make an impact in any format in recent seasons. But the fairytale was not to be for Jacob Duffy in his first season as captain as the consistent Firebirds stole the show.

The first-class arena was again dominated by the strong Central Stags who showed they could consistently field a balanced and potent line-up.

Last season, the side was captained by Will Young as he lifted the Plunket Shield. The team already knew in the last round that Young intended to step down to focus on his batting, and they dug deep to ensure they stayed unbeaten in the last match.

New captain Greg Hay — and it would be hard to find a player more passionate about the Plunket Shield — carried on in 2018/19 where Young had left off, and produced his highest first-class score, 226 in the most remarkable first-class game of cricket of the season.

The Stags started strong as the only team to post three consecutive victories, and remained unbeaten after four rounds to set up their defence.

BLACKCAPS captain Kane Williamson made a rare Plunket Shield appearance. All images: PHOTOSPORT

At the midway mark, their biggest threat looked to be coming from Northern Districts who started the season convincingly with an all-star line-up — now including the likes of Neil Wagner and Colin de Grandhomme, having moved to ND during the off-season. They opened with a big first-round win, Wagner and Trent Boult on fire.

After three rounds, Canterbury had yet to get a win and looked to be nowhere this season. All that was about to change. After beating the Volts by nine wickets in Round Four, Cole McConchie’s red and blacks became the first team to defeat the Stags since October 2016 — after a nail-biting penultimate afternoon in Rangiora. It was a tight two-wicket win, but enough to finally end a CD record undefeated streak by the Stags.

Canterbury then kept up the heat, stringing together wins and heading into the final round as one of the only two remaining title contenders, albeit 15 points adrift of the Stags. Their final-round away match against the Firebirds would never take place, abandoned in the wake of the Christchurch mosque mass murder. The abandonment for reasons other than cricket meant Canterbury and the out of contention Firebirds would receive the average of points scored by other teams in the final round — the other two matches of the eighth round proceeding.

The Stags therefore locked in the title ahead of the final round, in the saddest of circumstances. When they then went on to chalk up their sixth bonus point in that last round against ND (despite a second loss for the season), there would be no “what ifs”, however. Even if all three matches had been played, the Stags had gone clear on points.

“It was a difficult time for everyone,” reflected Stags captain Greg Hay afterwards. “We fully respected Canterbury’s decision not to play their game. For us, we decided that another way to show respect for the victims would be to not let a terrorist change our lives, by going out and doing what we love and not letting them scare us. That was our mark of respect to the victims. We played a hard and competitive game of cricket over the last four days and, whilst it was very difficult, we stayed together and supported each other as a team.”

As a mark of respect and inclusivity, the team also decided to forego the traditional champagne spray at the presentation ceremony.

It had been 51 seasons since a CD first-class team had gone back to back. With Hay proudly lifting the Plunket Shield, 2018/19 was the first time that the Central Stags won the two most disparate formats — the test of endurance and strategy that is red-ball four-day cricket; and the increasingly skilful, high energy, white-ball T20 — in the same season.

The Stags finally cracked it after having made the Grand Final for a third consecutive year. New Burger King Super Smash captain Tom Bruce claimed the trophy for the first time since 2009/10, and was named NZC’s Burger King Super Smash Player of the Year.

Uncannily, the men’s Burger King Super Smash was almost an action replay of the previous summer. Knights qualify top — check. Auckland Aces host the Elimination Final at Eden Park Outer Oval — check. Central Stags reverse their regular season result to knock out the Aces in the Elimination Final — check. Grand Final at Seddon Park — check.

Then — shock! — a total reverse of 2018’s Grand Final, in which the Knights had blown the Stags off the park by restricting them to their lowest ever total in the competition, an uncompetitive 99/8.

Remarkably, the Knights bowled out the Stags for 99 this season, too — in Napier. Unfortunately for the Knights, that match wasn’t the Grand Final. Instead, the Stags turned the tables completely by bowling the Knights out for just 80 inside 15 overs. Finals, eh? Never predictable!

Wellington Blaze meanwhile showed their T20 mastery with a third Burger King Super Smash / T20 crown in the space of five years.

The women’s Burger King Super Smash Final was played at Auckland’s Eden Park, but that was as close as Auckland got to a T20 Grand Final in a season in which the big city utterly dominated national age-group cricket, but missed out on all the senior Domestic silverware.

The Auckland Hearts had to be content with third spot as top qualifiers Blaze and the Canterbury Magicians met in the televised trophy showdown. Both sides had put together a solid regular season, winning six out of their 10 matches. Magicians skipper Frances Mackay had enjoyed another strong season and topped the batting charts as well as sitting among the top four wicket-takers nationally. She was named NZC’s Burger King Super Smash Player of the Season.

But talk about drama! The Grand Final went right to the wire, Blaze chasing 131 for victory. Sadly for Mackay, after having already had a hand in three runouts in the innings she missed a desperate shy at the stumps on the last ball. The Blaze had won by four wickets to become the first team to win back-to-back since the Magicians in 2010/11 and 2011/12.

Anyone following the Central Hinds’ fortunes in the 2018/19 Burger King Super Smash would have been astounded if they’d looked into a crystal ball and seen the results of the one-day Hallyburton Johnstone Shield.

The Hinds didn’t win a single game in the T20 format all summer (they came close, once, at Pukekura Park, to upsetting the Auckland Hearts).

Fast forward to the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield Grand Final and there they were as the top qualifiers, dominating and beating the well versed Hearts — who were the defending champions, and had taken out the 50-over format three times in the past four seasons.

Natalie Dodd’s record-breaking season with the bat was part of the success story, and with captain Anlo van Deventer she was part of one of the most statistically impressive feats of the 2018/19 New Zealand season when they constructed a staggering Domestic one-day record partnership (for both men’s and women’s cricket) of 328 against the Otago Sparks in Palmerston North.

Remarkably it came just 24 hours after Northern Spirit’s Kate Anderson and Felicity Leydon-Davis had put on 308* for the third wicket against the Canterbury Magicians in Waikato. Who would have believed that Anderson and Leydon-Davis’s new record for the highest stand in the long history of the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield would last for just one day!

With three of the five national Domestic trophies going to Central Districts for the winter — capped off by Napier Technical Old Boys defending the NZCT National Club Cricket Championship as well, it turned out to be an unprecedented season for CDCA, with Cricket Wellington claiming the remaining two trophies.

The biggest overall takeout from the men's season was a big tick for depth. In a summer in which The Ford Trophy had been expanded from eight to 10 rounds and moved to a compact, pre-Christmas window, and the Plunket Shield reduced from a double round robin to eight matches for an earlier than usual finish to the season, most of the men’s teams had grappled with losing their best players at the start of a season to the beefed up New Zealand A programme and/or the BLACKCAPS. The Stags had been the heaviest affected, an example of increasing high performance depth yielding exciting results.

The women's Domestic season will be remembered not only for some staggering partnerships and performances, but for the successful alignment and significantly increased television exposure for the women's Burger King Super Smash.

Following the conclusion of the summer, all six Major Associations held their own season awards with the key recipients as follows.

Auckland

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Cricketer of the Year — Will Somerville
Bowler of the Year (men) — Will Somerville
Bowler of the Year (women) — Holly Huddleston
Batsman of the Year (men) — Glenn Phillips
Batsman of the Year (women) — Lauren Down

Northern Districts

Cricketer of the Year (men) — Ish Sodhi
Cricketer of the Year (women) —Katie Gurrey
Hallyburton Johnstone Shield Player of the Year — Kate Anderson
Burger King Super Smash Player of the Year (women) — Katie Gurrey
Burger King Super Smash Player of the Year (men) — Daryl Mitchell
Plunket Shield Player of the Year — Ish Sodhi
Ford Trophy Player of the Year — Joe Carter

Central Districts

Cricketer of the Year — Greg Hay
Cricketer of the Year (women) — Natalie Dodd
Hallyburton Johnstone Shield Player of the Year — Natalie Dodd
Burger King Super Smash Player of the Year (women) — Hannah Rowe
Burger King Super Smash Player of the Year (men) — Tom Bruce and Blair Tickner
Ford Trophy Player of the Year — Dean Foxcroft
Plunket Shield Player of the Year — Greg Hay

Wellington

Cricketer of the Year (women) — Melie Kerr
Cricketer of the Year (men) — Devon Conway
Bowler of the Year (men) — Hamish Bennett
Bowler of the Year (women) — Deanna Doughty
Batsman of the Year (men) — Devon Conway
Batsman of the Year (women) — Liz Perry
Allrounder of the Year (men) — Jimmy Neesham
Allrounder of the Year (women) — Melie Kerr
Fielder of the Year (men) — Lauchie Johns
Fielder of the Year (women) — Thamsyn Newton

Canterbury

Cricketer of the Year (men) — Cole McConchie
Cricketer of the Year (women) — Frances Mackay
Bowler of the Year (men) — Kyle Jamieson
Bowler of the Year (women) — Erin Bermingham
Batsman of the Year (men) — Stephen Murdoch
Batsman of the Year (women) — Frances Mackay

Otago

Cricketer of the Year (men) — Jacob Duffy
Cricketer of the Year (women) — Leigh Kasperek
Bowler of the Year (men) — Jacob Duffy
Bowler of the Year (women) — Leigh Kasperek
Batsman of the Year (men) — Hamish Rutherford
Batsman of the Year (women) — Alice Davidson-Richards
Fielder of the Year (women) — Polly Inglis
Burger King Super Smash Player of the Year (men) — Brad Wilson
Ford Trophy Player of the Year — Michael Rippon
Plunket Shield Player of the Year — Matt Bacon

With Thanks To

Sky Sport Pitch ANZ Ford
Accor Hotels Dynasty Burger King Caltex CCC GJ Gardner Hertz Les Mills Powerade Radio Sport TAB Monteiths