One minute Willem Ludick was taking a stellar catch at McLean Park, Napier, last summer. The next the Central Districts Stags player was frozen in time as he had disappeared as a blip on the radar of the men's Twenty20 domestic cricket.
But the morse code — W 6 dot 6 6 4 — from the 22-year-old Heretaunga Building Society Cornwall CC premier men's allrounder, against the Auckland Aces at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, required no interpretation after home boy Ryan Watson had lost his wicket last Saturday.
A lousy 30cm was all that separated the two-run agony from ecstasy off the bat of the Nelson batsman for the hosts in the double-header as the aces joined the Blaze women for a clean sweep on what CD calls its home during the Super Smash campaign.
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"It was obviously not to get the boundary but I just came in with a clear mind ... and realised we had a chance so I just tried to stand tall to do what I could do, really," said Ludick as the Tom Bruce-captained Stags prepare to host the table-topping Otago Volts at McLean Park in a 7.10pm televised start after the women's Hinds versus Sparks game on Thursday.
He was philosophical about the way a game can pan out in a fickle format but took some fillip from his bat-wielding demeanour at No 7 for defending champions CD who have dropped to third place.
It isn't lost on the Aldin Smith-coached Stags that every match now is a do-or-die affair amid the label that the visitors are some sort of "surprise leaders".
No doubt, for the green machine it's simply a case of paying homage to the clichéd edict of taking care of their business rather than leaving it to the outcome of other variables in making the elimination final or directly to the grand final.
"Yes, it's a big game but from now on every game is a big one, really," he says, alluding to the experience of Otago in the mould of Anaru Kitchen who has more than 120 caps.
"They have a lot of experience in white-ball cricket and have done well in the 50-over compo so, I think, they're under rated in white-ball cricket so I'm not surprised at the position they're in."
South African-born Ludick made his T20 debut on New Year's Eve last year at Pukekura Park alongside his long-time friend from Pretoria, Hawke's Bay and former You Travel Taradale CC player Dean Foxcroft who has crossed Cook Strait this summer to ply his trade with the Volts.
Flatmates in Napier, the former South Africa U19 reps will re-ignite their childhood passion that led to Foxcroft captaining Ludick at the ICC Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh in early 2016.
"I'm happy that he's playing professional [because] it's one of his dreams but I'm surprised that he's moved away," says Ludick but emphasises he can't speak for Foxcroft.
"I've had many a good contest against him in my life [and] I'm sure we're going to have a few more."
As junior cricketers in Pretoria, Ludick once ran out Foxcroft on 98 before going on to make a century — something which remains a source of cheerful banter to this day.
Ludick says his hiatus from T20 was a reflection of the depth of CD with senior players and Black Caps in the mix but a spate of injuries means he's played in other formats and not just grown as an individual but having garnered experience.
Missing the cull, he believes, heightens the enjoyment on the field because he's mindful not every game is a given, albeit on players returning rather than on performance.
"The longer you are in the group you [tend to] realise it is what it is."
Uncapped Bay spinner Jayden Lennox drops out in the only adjustment to 12 from Pukekura Park last weekend.
Ludick's parents, Edwin and Sanette, will be in the crowd with his fiancee, Lene Fourie, in the floodlit affair.
"They've been here for most of the campaign so it's good to have them around to put in a good performance and then follow them to mostly get a win for the team," says Ludick, revealing his businessman father is a former South African high jumper who didn't realise the dream of competing at the summer Olympics because of the Apartheid era.
• CD Stags: Tom Bruce (c), Joshua Clarkson, Dane Cleaver (wk), Christian Leopard, Willem Ludick, Kieran Noema-Barnett, Ajaz Patel, Seth Rance, Blair Tickner, Ryan Watson, Ben Wheeler, George Worker.