Some of them have just starred for the BLACKCAPS in the one-dayers against Sri Lanka, others are perennially bubbling away on the Domestic circuit, putting their hand up. Who were the top drawer players in the 2022/23 Ford Trophy?
In The Ford Trophy Grand Final last week, Central Stags batsman Brad Schmulian needed just 26 runs to become the summer's top one-day runscorer in the country. It will pain the pencil-slim right-hander that he got out for 22, but he did get to take home the trophy for consolation.
A determined character with a strong defensive technique guaranteed to irritate bowlers from one end of the country to the other, Schmulian finished with 405 runs from 10 games with a high score 93 against Northern Districts at McLean Park, at a 40+ average.
He finished second to Otago Volts veteran captain Hamish Rutherford who made the most of an endless dry summer in Otago and made 408 runs from nine innings at a 58.29 average, including an unbeaten 120* against ND in Dunedin in the last match of the regular season - a textbook win under pressure, and top captain's knock to get the Volts into the top three for the Elimination Final at Queenstown as the third qualifier.
Canterbury opener Chad Bowes was the third-highest run-getter overall, slamming a memorable century in that Elimination Final to eliminate the Volts, reaching 126 and inking his name into the BLACKCAPS squad for the first time. Bowes tallied 373 runs from nine knocks at an average just under 47.
OK, since we're talking averages. BLACKCAP and Central Stag Will Young was top of the pops here with a batting average of 89.33, including a high score of 128, from the six games he played. Three red-inkers helped, but he was doing the job bringing wins home for his side, wth a 100+ strike rate.
HIGHEST STRIKE RATE
OK, since we're talking strike rates! There's always a few lower order upstarts who don't waste time building an innings and get stuck in for a few quick runs. Cantabrian BLACKCAP Matt Henry only contributed 57 runs from two innings but he had fun with it at a 178.13 SR. Big, strong Otago Volts bowler Michael Rae is not renowned for his batting prowess but managed 38 runs from four innings at 172.73.
So if we skip along to some genuine batsmen, Finn Allen was but a brief presence for the Firebirds this season but predictably went big, early and fast with six sixes in his two innings pumping up his SR to 159.32.
Wellington rookie Devan Vishvaka and young Stag Will Clark both impressed with their hitting power in their limited opportunities, but the overall standout should come as no surprise: Central Stags powerhouse Josh Clarkson, who blasted an unbeaten 111*, including a huge six right over the Lowe Stand, to bring home the Grand Final for the Stags. After struggling initially in the comp, he finished with a 105.46 strike rate as he burst into form at the perfect moment.
Honorary mention: young ND allrounder Kristian Clarke (105.45, and two half tons). Watch his space.
Central Stags veteran Ben Smith was in a class of his own at Seddon Park as he went big with a knock of 145 against a pulverised ND. Smith on his day is a matchwinner, and this was his day - his only significant score in the five games he played.
The second-highest individual score in the competition this season was Young's 128, then Bowes's 126 and Rutherford's unbeaten 120*. Other batsmen to ton up: Rachin Ravindra (Firebirds), Leo Carter (alongside Bowes in the Elimination Final) and Ken McClure for Canterbury, Tim Seifert and Henry Cooper for ND, and of course the destructive clean-hitting beast Clarkson.
MAKING A STAND
Brad Schmulian and Ben Smith put together the stand the of the tournament in Hamilton, a rare double century partnership in the one-day format that reached 252 for the first wicket.
Ken McClure and Cam Fletcher also had a day to remember against the Stags in Christchurch with an unbeaten 176* together for the fifth.
But perhaps the one that will be talked about and remembered the longest will be Josh Clarkson and Tom Bruce taking their team from 49/4 to 216/4 to win The Ford Trophy Grand Final in Napier - a matchwinning undefeated stand of 167* that saw Clarkson reach an unbeaten 111* and captain Bruce reach an unbeaten 51* with the winning boundary.
With 18 wickets each, a pair of pacemen - Central Stags Brett Randell and Otago Volt Michael Rae - both finished top of the column, but Randell's average is worth another glance.
Zeroing in at 14.27 across eight games, with a rhythmic, efficient action, Randell's wicket-taking menace factor at the popping crease is a touch redolent of Hadlee. After his best season yet in an arthritis-affected career, he was unfortunate to miss out on the Grand Final however, having to stay at home to recover from a concussion sustained in the previous four-day game.
Rae continues to be a strong man for the Volts, and averaged 22.44 across his nine games. ND's rising star Kristian Clarke had an excellent first full summer, with 16 wickets at 21.31.
Honorary mention to Wellington Firebird Logan van Beek with 15. Before a serious shoulder injury cut him off, Stag Seth Rance was in form and took 16 from just six games, as did Canterbury's Henry Shipley before his BLACKCAPS call-up.
Four-for's are considered the benchmark in the 50-over game so to take five or more in an innings is a very good day's work.
Take a bow Randell (5/39), Neil Wagner (ND, 5/31), Rae (5/57), Ollie Newton (6/33), Shipley 6/40 - incuding the first ever hat-trick for Canterbury in the competition, and just the fourth in 52 years in The Ford Trophy), and Volts kingpin Jacob Duffy (5/33).
Of players who played more than one or two games, the Economy Cup goes to: Matt Henry, ER 3.10 from four appearances.
The spinner's Economy Cup goes to Auckland Ace Louis Delport who was not far behind at 3.29 from six innings. Duffy, Rance and Randell also conceded fewer than four runs per over on average off their bowling, a measure of both skill and respect from the wary opponents.
Just no prizes for guessing the Stags captain Tom Bruce tops this list. No matter which format, he's gobbling a high number of catches, whether at slip or in the deep.
He finished two clear of Volt Glenn Phillips with nine, ND's Katene Clarke, and his own teammate Randell and Josh Clarkson, with nine.
Max Chu contributes strongly for his Volts with bat and gloves, and with the latter he made 18 dismissals, inluding four stumpings, to win the wicketkeeping top honours.
He also snatched six in one innings which was a record for the Otago Volts, at home in Dunedin against the Firebirds.
Tim Seifert equalled ND's record with five in Whangarei, and finished second equal in the overall dismissals with 16 from 10 games, alongside Stag Dane Cleaver who played 11 games.