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Patel caps season with rare threepeat

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Central Stags left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel may have to extend his house to accommodate all the trophies he has collected in the last few days.


NZC’s Domestic Player of the Year for 2017/18 finished a victorious Plunket Shield campaign this week as New Zealand’s top first-class wicket-taker for an impressive third consecutive summer.

Patel’s 48 Plunket Shield wickets for the undefeated Central Stags in the New Zealand season came at a quality average of 21.57 — his best return yet on both fronts; and included seven five-wicket bags from nine matches; one haul of 10 in a match (against the Auckland Aces at Eden Park Outer Oval in Round Seven); and a career-best performance of 6-48 (against Northern Districts in Mount Maunganui in Round One).

Despite missing Round Eight after having been called into the NZ XI to play England, plus hot competition for the individual bowling crown this summer from pace bowlers around the country and a late charge from the Firebirds' former BLACKCAP Jeetan Patel, the Stags' Patel ripped through the back end of the competition with a head-turning five five-wicket bags from his final four matches.

It capped an impressive season in which the diminutive but dangerous, Mumbai-born 29-year-old claimed a total of 72 wickets across all three formats, and follows his 43 first-class wickets at 33.69 from eight matches in 2015/16 and 44 wickets from nine matches at 30.81 last summer.

Patel now has a hoard of 187 career wickets from just six first-class seasons, all of them for the Central Stags who adopted him from Auckland.

There were no surprises when he was then named the Central Stags’ Player of the Year, Plunket Shield Player of the Year, and voted Players’ Player of the Year at the annual Central Districts Cricket Association Awards on Friday night in Napier, but the man himself says he is still pinching himself.

“I’m truly humbled by all the awards and accolades that have come my way, especially playing alongside the likes of Ticks [Blair Tickner] and Greg Hay, and having witnessed first-hand Haysie’s outstandingly consistent Plunket Shield season with the bat for us this summer,” says Patel.

“Playing with this group of individuals this season has meant the world to me. It’s a special bunch.”

Central Stags opening batsman Greg Hay finished with 786 runs from nine matches at a batting average of 60.46, after also having bypassed Round Eight with a NZ XI call-up. Remarkably the gritty Nelson veteran scored a half century or better in all but his final match of the season.

After a strong season of their own, runners-up the Wellington Firebirds could be consoled only by Michael Papps claiming the honour of top first-class batsman in the country and Tom Blundell's standout statistics behind the stumps.

Doughty Papps hit the ground running in 2017/18 with a career-best unbeaten triple century (316* against the Auckland Aces) at the Basin Reserve, and scored a further century thereafter to finish with 814 runs from 10 matches at 50.87 in what many are speculating may have been the 12,294-run veteran’s swansong season.

The Central Stags became just the second team since the competition’s 1906 inception to lift the Plunket Shield undefeated after captain Will Young batted throughout the final day of the season to hold Northern Districts to a dogged draw at Napier’s Nelson Park.

The historic trophy and winner’s cheque of NZD $75,000 was then presented to Young and his team by NZC General Manager, Domestic Cricket Mr Andrew Rogers.

It was the 10th time since the team was formed in the early 1950s that the Central Stags had lifted the Plunket Shield.