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Herald on Sunday editorial: New spark lights up summer

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Corey Anderson. Photo / Getty Images
Corey Anderson. Photo / Getty Images

When Corey Anderson hit cricket's fastest century at Queenstown on New Year's Day, he lit up our summer. Not that it lacked sunlight; the weather has been kind since November, but the young cricketer provided the sort of sport that makes summer special.

He was not alone. The women's tennis this week has been as enjoyable as ever, thanks to visiting stars Anna Ivanovic and Venus Williams. The latter in particular. Williams was engaging off court and clearly showed on court that she had not come simply for appearance money, as might have been expected of someone in the twilight of her career.

Neither she nor Ivanovic, aiming to regain a place in the world's top 10, were using the ASB Classic simply to warm up for the Australian Open. Let us hope the same can be said of all those enticed to the men's Heineken Open that starts tomorrow.

Tennis has been providing a consistent summer treat for many years but the same cannot be said of cricket. It seems a while since we had a batsman of Anderson's power in the one-day game.

The last, indeed, was his partner at Queenstown, Jesse Ryder, who also hit a century to signal, hopefully, that his personal issues are in the past.

Summer has not been the same without some cricket worth watching. The small crowd at Queenstown for the Anderson-Ryder treat was no doubt a consequence of the weather that reduced the match to a 21-over slog but turn-outs have been low at other games.

The quality of the visitors from the West Indies is not the only reason. The Black Caps have to earn a local following.

Their performances this season are putting them well on the way to recovering the support of old. Even before the Anderson revelation and the return of Ryder, test batsman Ross Taylor had a double century and a century in consecutive innings to take him to fourth in world test ranking. Bowlers Trent Boult and Mitchell McClenaghan have shown the team has some strike power again.

Suddenly the Black Caps look competitive, and in Anderson they appear to have a player with the confidence that comes only from abundant natural talent. His century off just 36 balls was no surprise to those who had seen him as a schoolboy and Canterbury representative since his debut for the province seven years ago, aged 16.

Indeed, the talent they describe raises the question why it has not emerged earlier. Whatever the reason, international cricket is aware of him now. Lucrative offers from the Indian league must be coming his way.

More important for New Zealand cricket, he will give the game here the best sort of model for young players: an all-rounder who clearly enjoys the game and combines prodigious ability with a cheerful competitive spirit. His is a talent that will not succeed every day but the prospect of him in tandem with Ryder should rebuild attendances for limited-over matches from here on.

If only New Zealand tennis could find a local hero. Marina Erakovic has begun to repay its investment in her with wins in overseas tournaments last year but, by her own admission, still struggles for good form in front of her home crowd. No local male player is likely to excite us this week.

But summer sport is a relief from the stress of watching rugby and other football codes. Sunshine offers pleasure, whatever the result. When a summer produces a young player such as Corey Anderson it is a bonus, possibly the beginning of something great.

- Herald on Sunday

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