The Post

Ronchi keen to make most of rare first-class match

‘For me, if I just go out and relax and let things happen it works out a lot better. If I think too much about it then things can go awry.’

- MARK GEENTY

LUKE RONCHI is frustrated but nearly rejuvenate­d. It’s summed up by the fact that Hamilton’s Seddon Park will play host tomorrow y to his first first-class match in New Zealand for 20 months.

He needs this rare outing for Wellington to cleanse his mind ahead of a test tour of Australia where he’s unlikely to feature, but will then return for a limited overs onslaught against Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Australia and hope to break an alarming run of outs.

Amid perhaps New Zealand Cricket’s most memorable year, where punters fell in love with the game again, Ronchi’s affection fluctuated.

The first-choice Black Caps limited overs gloveman, Ronchi blasted 170 not out off 99 balls in a one-day internatio­nal against Sri Lanka in January and the world was his oyster on World Cup eve. Since that sunny Dunedin afternoon, as the Black Caps rode the wave to the final then toured England and Africa, Ronchi batted 18 times in ODIs for a highest score of 47 and 12 single-figure innings.

‘‘I was just trying too hard to do too much. It all stemmed from the World Cup, not getting as many hits in a match on a regular basis and then you just try too hard and it goes from tour to tour,’’ Ronchi said.

‘‘Even the England stuff, I went over there and did well early on, and then one of the early onedayers I got some runs but I was still trying too hard to do too much.

‘‘For me, if I just go out and relax and let things happen it works out a lot better. If I think too much about it then things can go awry.’’

That approach served him well in the Headingley chill in May. Incumbent test gloveman BJ Watling’s heavily bruised thigh from the first test at Lord’s saw Ronchi handed his first test cap at age 34. The result was a Ronchi day one special, taking on a short-pitched England barrage to topscore with 88 off 70 balls as New Zealand set the pace before completing a series-levelling win.

‘‘I said to myself ‘this could be my one and only test’, so I didn’t want to go out there nervous and thinking of too many things. Just go out and enjoy it as much as I can.’’

Enjoyment might not be the right word when facing test new ball pair Tim Southee and Trent Boult, but Ronchi says bring it on as the Firebirds oppose a Knights team bolstered by five of the 15-man test squad. ‘‘It’s a good thing. You want to play against the best.’’

Ronchi’s previous first-class match in New Zealand was at Auckland’s Eden Park in February 2014.

The tour match against Somerset in May was his next first-class appearance, followed by the Headingley test then four more for Somerset in a late season callup last month. He averaged 24 in five innings and was lbw for four to Wellington team-mate Jeetan Patel in the last of them.

‘‘That was a good thing going to England; having a change of scenery and not thinking too much about what happened on that South Africa tour. Just get the mind in a different space. It’s more beneficial playing cricket than training.’’

Ronchi has a history of arriving relatively fresh and destroying bowling lineups, like his 99 against South Africa at Mt Maunganui a year ago and that Headingley test debut.

This week, then possibly the Prime Minister’s XI tour opener in Canberra next Friday, could be his only innings for the next seven weeks. He’s resigned to a lot of net time as backup wicketkeep­er/ batsman to Watling for the three Australia tests unless injuries hit.

‘‘I’m going over with the expectatio­n of not playing and if by chance something happens and I get a game I can hopefully go out with that kind of mindset and be as relaxed as possible and let things happen.

‘‘I’ll be doing a lot more fitness [in Australia] and getting my body right and hopefully be ready to go for a big summer.’’

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