Cricketer of the Week (January 19-25): Luke Ronchi
With just over a fortnight to go for the 2015 Cricket World Cup, all teams are looking to get as many wins as they can under their belt leading up to the mega event. One of the sides who seem to be gaining excellent momentum leading up to the tournament are New Zealand.
They are currently involved in an ODI series against Sri Lanka and showed the world last week that they have what it takes to recover and win from pressure situations.
New Zealand at 93/5
The two teams were playing the 5th ODI of the seven-match series at the University Oval in Dunedin. The hosts found themselves in trouble at 93 for 5 in the 20th over when wicketkeeper-batsman Luke Ronchi came to the crease.
After a slow start, the 33-year-old started to pick up the scoring rate by taking on the Sri Lankan bowlers. He was particularly harsh on the spinning duo of Jeevan Mendis and Sachitra Senanayake and then got stuck into the quicker men as well.
He reached his half-century off just 38 balls, courtesy a free-flowing shot over the covers off the bowling of Suranga Lakmal and continued to bat in an aggressive manner after that, scoring boundaries and sixes at will.
He was helped by the fact that the Lankan bowlers gave him several loose deliveries and he made the most of them. His previous best score in ODIs was 99 against South Africa, but he ensured that he reached the three-figure mark this time around and he did so, by taking a single off Thisara Perera
The fireworks, however, didn't stop there and the right-hander continued to hammer the Sri Lankan bowlers to all parts of the ground. He reached his 150 with a cut shot off the bowling of Lakmal as he got to the mark off just 92 balls.
He eventually finished on 170 not out off just 99 balls and had put on a record 267 runs for the sixth wicket with Grant Elliot, who scored a 96-ball 104* himself. That meant New Zealand had completed a dramatic recovery to reach 360 for 5 in 50 overs.
The Sri Lankans seemed to be in the game until Tillakaratne Dilshan was at the crease, but they crumbled once he was gone for 116 and were bowled out for 252 in 43.4 overs.
Elliot all praise for Ronchi
After the game, Elliot revealed that it was great fun to bat with Ronchi and he was happy to be present in the middle when his teammate reached his maiden century.
“It was really fun to be out there with Ronchs. I was sitting at the non-striker's trying to get the strike off him, but I couldn't - he kept hitting fours and sixes all the time. I really enjoyed watching his innings, and it was great to have a fellow Wellingtonian there to celebrate the hundred with me, and also to celebrate his first hundred,” he said.
Ronchi said that he was looking to get in initially before unleashing on the Sri Lankan bowlers.
“When we first started the innings we thought we'd just bat for a while and get through that little period when the ball was still doing a bit,” the wicket-keeper said.
“After that we were pretty relaxed about the whole situation and enjoyed the position we were in. Both of us were scoring quite freely and getting what we wanted out of the bowlers.”
Ronchi is making the most of his second coming
Ronchi didn't have the best of starts to his international career after the Australian selectors decided to opt for Brad Haddin ahead of him, following the retirement of Adam Gilchrist. He, however, did make his international debut for Australia in 2008 against the West Indies.
However, with the return of Haddin, he once again fell off the selectors’ radar and eventually, decided to return to his country of birth New Zealand in 2012. That decision proved to be an important one and he was picked for the tour of England in 2013. He made his debut for New Zealand at Lord’s and thereby became the first cricketer to play for both Australia and New Zealand.
Although New Zealand boast of several fine players at the top of the order, there is no doubt that when the need arises, they can certainly depend on this wicketkeeper-batsman to deliver the goods.
Here’s a video of his innings against Sri Lanka:
You can catch the past winners of this series on this link: Recent Cricketers of the Week