Cricket: Muzzled Ryder lets bat talk

By Anendra Singh

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Having done a round on the perimeter of the Nelson Park boundary, Wellington Firebirds coach Jamie Siddons settled a safe distance from the sightscreen.

"Come on, boy, hit it all the way here," said the Australian, sitting on the ground making small talk with a bloke while his eyes only fleetingly left on-strike batsman Jesse Ryder, who was sitting on 99 runs.

The former Black Caps allrounder obliged seconds later like an obedient golden retriever, comfortably heaving the ball over Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags leg spinner Tarun Nethula, to about five minutes past the sightscreen.

It didn't clear the rope but, befittingly, Siddons defied gravity to stop the ball on a bounce for a boundary on the third day of the season-opening four-day Plunket Shield match in Napier.

The 28-year-old left-hander whipped his helmet off, lifted his bandanna-clad head to acknowledge his teammates giving him a standing ovation for a well-earned century from the pavilion.

On 84 runs at stumps on Monday, former Hawke's Bay player Ryder frustrated the Kieran Noema-Barnett CD with 100 off 101 balls, including 11 fours.

He seemed at ease on the batting crease in the 195 minutes to carve up the ton, content to take singles as No 10 Mark Gillespie ticked him over.

The former Complete Flooring Napier Technical Old Boys player took a self-imposed break in February, putting his international and domestic career on the backburner.

The hiatus from the former Napier Boys' High School pupil came after New Zealand Cricket reprimanded him for breaking international team protocol of drinking alcohol while recovering from injuries following a one-day international against South Africa on February 29.

Ryder played for the Pune Warriors in the Indian Premier League but did not seek a renewal of his contract with NZ Cricket, choosing instead to take a break from the game to tackle personal and fitness issues.

Black Caps coach Mark Hesson broached the question of Ryder's fitness just before the 2012-13 summer of cricket began at the weekend.

If head groundsman Phil Stoyanoff and his broom-broom boys were anticipating a swift makeover for the third innings yesterday, they had another thing coming.

CD wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk and first slip Jeet Raval had vociferously appealed a tickle off a Nethula delivery when Ryder was on 99 and not long before, there was a stifled appeal for a leg-before-wicket but, inarguably, the bad boy of cricket is showing all the signs of becoming good.

That Ryder was dropped at third slip on Monday, albeit in Noema-Barnett's words a difficult chance, it could still be costly.

At stumps last night, Ryder maintained his hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil stance but one could argue did he need to when his bat spoke volumes?

Before the shield match started on Sunday, the Wellington camp claimed Ryder wasn't going to talk, at the request of his manager, Aaron Klee.

"He just wants to keep his head down at the moment," Klee told APNZ last night. "He just wants to do what he's doing and not get sidetracked by anything else.

"We will see what happens."

Ryder could change the Black Caps' run drought in all three forms of the game, although a benign Nelson Park wicket is a far cry from what subcontinent and South Africa wickets can offer.

He has averaged 40.93 in his 18 tests - the only member of the current squad to average over 40 is captain Ross Taylor (42.60) - and is a useful medium pace bowler. Ryder has the ability to turn a game with his aggressive style but has also courted more than his fair share of trouble.

Ryder doesn't have a New Zealand Cricket contract but is on Wellington's payroll.

Wellington captain Stephen Murdoch spoke after Siddons and Gillespie interview requests also proved futile.

"He [Ryder] showed his class and a lot of maturity. He was happy to take ones and not take on the boundary and from Jesse, that showed determination and grit to work towards that 100," Murdoch said.

"Jesse has shown he can be a very explosive batsman but today he showed he can also be a very smart batsman."

The ninth-wicket partnership with Gillespie had brought up 50 runs from 68 balls with the century maker contributing 19 while Gillespie took over with 26 runs (5 extras) to metamorphose from rabbit to energiser bunny as he found the boundary five times and deposited a lusty six for good measure to finish with 38 when he hit a Nethula delivery down Jamie How's throat.

"He [Gillespie] wanted Jesse to make three figures and that was his goal. He could hang in there and shake Jesse's hand at the other end so he didn't want Jesse left hanging out there," Murdoch said of the opening bowler who received countless pats on the back from Ryder throughout the innings.

"Mark played some great shots and showed some composure as well, which is great to see."

Enter No 11 Dane Hutchinson, who fell for 13 after feathering a ball to Kruger Van Wyk's gloves from a Ben Wheeler new-ball delivery.

While Ryder remained unbeaten on 117 off 113 balls and it was arguably the visitors' day, the fact remained no batsmen remained with the No 4 century maker long enough to inflict more misery on the Stags.

On 284 at stumps on Monday, chasing CD's 383-8 declared in the first innings, the Firebirds had done quite well in gnawing away at the Stags' lead to 43 runs.

However, the Stags were 223-6 at stumps with No 8 Doug Bracewell 34 not out and No 7 William Young unbeaten on 14 and CD posting a lead of 266 runs and shy of a declaration.

"We fought hard again today and our attitude was fantastic to reduce the deficit as much as we can and to get within 40 was a great effort, not only by Jesse but the other guys who batted with him," Murdoch said, equally chuffed with the Firebirds' bowlers picking up wickets consistently throughout CD's second innings.

While they were always breaking their back and shining the ball, he predicted today would be interesting.

"We've got a new ball in our hands so we've got to come in and take some quick wickets, as simple as that - the sooner, the better."

Did the Firebirds expect a sporting declaration from the hosts?

"I don't know. You'll have to ask Barney about that," Murdoch said with a grin.

"There are no points for a draw so it'll be great if we were coming down on the fourth day to be playing for some points but we'll just have to see what pans out tomorrow," he said, adding three results were possible and that was what shield cricket was all about.

Hunt said the wish was to fulfil the overnight goal of quick, painless scalps but it didn't work out as planned.

"How often do you see tailenders hang around to do a good job like Gillespie and really supported Jesse well and then the No 11 Hutchinson did a good job, too.

"They worked well for Jesse, who played smart cricket and nudged the ball around and didn't look to take on the field," he said, adding it was a co-operative effort to eke out singles.

The Stags, Hunt lamented, didn't bowl as well as they could have.

"We're looking for improvements because we went for four an over, which was not acceptable, so that needs change if we are going to create any pressure on the opposition to stop them scoring."

His men were mindful of that so he was expecting something better from them in the second innings.

It's a wait-and-see stance from CD on any declaration, aware Young and Bracewell will have to survive the new ball in the morning first.

"Well, a lead of 260 or so is not enough. With 97 overs to play, it's less than three an over and they took us on for four an over so that's going to have an impact on our decision making."

Hunt felt the wicket was showing signs of some wear and tear for day four today.

"I like where we're at. If we can produce a little bit through the new ball nearer 300, that might be enough, but I'll speak to Kieran and we'll come up with a plan.

"I'm pleased we got to where we did - that 266 through hard work and determination of the guys to get us to this position," he said, adding the 43-run first-innings lead was critical in the scheme of things to help play a game of cricket and push on for victory.

New Zealand International Cricketer of the Year Bracewell remained wicket-less going for a shade under four runs an over.

Ben Wheeler took 3-68, while Noema-Barnett, Nethula and first-change seamer Andrew Mathieson claimed two wickets each.

The lean trot continued for opening CD batsman Jeet Raval when Gillespie rattled his furniture for two runs but Noema-Barnett top scored with 60.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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