The end of this season’s Plunket Shield has seen the stumps pulled on one of the lengthiest partnerships in New Zealand cricket.
Wellington provincial scorers Ian Smith and Cheryl Styles have worked together at the Basin, in what Smith calls the ‘’best seat in the house’’ since the 1984-85 season.
Smith, who has also collaborated with fellow statistical guru Francis Payne on the New Zealand Cricket Almanack for decades, has scored in 51 tests at the Basin, and this season’s domestic finale between Canterbury and Wellington was to be his 250th first-class fixture.
Styles has racked up 35 tests and will end on 101 first-class matches on top of those tests.
They are putting the tools of the trade away for slightly different reasons.
Smith is 75 and the most prolific scorer in New Zealand.
‘’I want to go out on my terms. You don’t want to be in a position where people are saying ‘look at that silly old coot; he should have been pensioned off years ago’’, he quipped.
For Styles, the decision to move away from pen and paper scoring to computers was a signal to her.
‘’It had been at the back of my mind before the season started that this might be my last season. Then when that email came through (that pen and paper scoring was being phased out in Wellington), I thought ‘that’s it, decision made for me’.’’
Smith started scoring as a young boy growing up in England when his father ran a team in the Royal Navy. He started scoring for Kilbirnie upon emigrating, in 1962-63 and on January 3, 1964, scored his opening first-class game at the Basin, the visitors being Canterbury. He was 20. Since then he believes he's missed no more than 10 to 12 matches at New Zealand's most iconic cricket ground.
Smith recalled that he played for a works team and, ‘’got 49 and 36 in my first two innings. The next five innings lasted six balls, so I thought maybe I’m not going to be a cricketer.’’
He linked up with Kilbirnie club and spent 14 summers scoring for them.
His test scoring debut was the Indian visit in 1967-68 and it should be no surprise that his favourite memory was the famous first test win over England, in 1977-78.
‘’I’ll never forget Bert Sutcliffe, who never played in a winning test team for New Zealand. He was quite emotional after the game.’’
His favourite players? He has a soft spot for the Naenae Express, Ewen Chatfield, still the only New Zealand bowler with more than 400 first-class wickets (403) for a province.
Among the batsmen, the deeds of Bruce Edgar and Robert Vance at the top of the Wellington order in the 1980s still resonate for Smith.
He remembers the halcyon days of John Reid and Bob Blair when they were batting and bowling giants for Wellington in the early 1960s and he reflected happily on momentous events he’s seen.
‘’I think I’ve been pretty lucky in so far that I scored the last tied game in domestic cricket (you guessed it, Wellington v Canterbury again) in 1988-89.
‘’I’ve scored three world test record stands – Andrew Jones and Martin Crowe against Sri Lanka (1990-91), Brendon McCullum and BJ Watling against India (2013-14), and Kane Williamson and Watling, against Sri Lanka (2014-15).
‘’Then there’s the only two 400-run opening stands in domestic cricket (Peter Ingram and Jamie How, 428 for Central Districts in 2009-10) and Michael Papps and Luke Woodcock (432) for Wellington against Auckland in 2017-18.’’
The appeal for both Smith and Styles is that they firmly believe they are involved in an essential part of the game, and must work as a team with the umpires.
Budding scorers must have a solid knowledge of the laws of the game; and concentration is key, and as Styles pointed out, the ability to switch on and off during the day, but at the right time.
Her personal technique is to put her pen down between balls, then pick it up as the bowler runs in for the next delivery.
‘’That’s my way of creating little micro pauses between deliveries. You don’t want to end the day when you’ve become so tensed up that you give yourself a headache.’’
Her affection for the game began as a young girl in Rotorua, when her father took her to Smallbone Park.
‘’My passion for cricket started there.’’
Styles only played two games of social cricket in her life ‘’and wasn’t very good, but I recognised there was a gap in the market so decided to become a scorer.’’
Moving to Wellington, she spent six years scoring in the Mercantile League before former New Zealand Cricket boss Alan Isaac suggested she come and score at his club, Johnsonville. That was in the 1982-83 season, and she’s still there, and intends to carry on too.
Styles, who won a New Zealand Cricket award as official of the year for community cricket, scored her 400th game for Johnsonville last season.
After two seasons with the club, she joined the first-class panel of scorers and in her first season made her test debut, alongside Smith when Pakistan toured in 1985.
Crowe’s 299 against Sri Lanka, McCullum’s 302, the first triple test century by a New Zealander, stick in her mind.
So will the pair be regulars at the Basin next season, albeit now simply as spectators?
Smith says yes, he’s a life member of the associations a life member of the association, has two grandsons to follow during the summer but reckons he’ll get along.
For Styles, completing her 43rd summer of scoring, it’s slightly different.
‘’I find it hard to watch when I’m not scoring. I get bored.
‘’My hands feel useless because I think like a scorer, what I would be writing down. I just don’t enjoy it to same extent.’’
We’ll see, but things won’t be the same at the Basin next summer. Smith and Stiles will leave a couple of large pairs of shoes to fill.