'Special' Jesse Ryder shows tons of class
Jamie Siddons has witnessed some batting master classes but yesterday's match-winning Jesse Ryder show took some beating.
Not since the days of Darren Lehmann, who hit thousands of Sheffield Shield runs for Siddons' South Australia, had the Wellington coach seen such an imperious display.
"It's very special, up there with the best I've seen. It's more like a Lehmann innings, he's that type of player. You put a fielder somewhere and he'll hit it where that fielder came from. He just had control of the game from the outset," Siddons said.
It's a pity only a handful of people were at Napier's Nelson Park, then, as Wellington cantered to a five-wicket victory against Central Districts.
Ryder's double of 117 not out and 174 (off 136 balls) made him the fourth Wellington batsman to score a century in each innings.
And it was his first first-class match since February, after the well-documented off-field issues which led him to quit alcohol and decline a national contract.
Ryder has kept a low media profile during his comeback, so it was left to Siddons to describe his mood in the dressing room.
"He's great. We just sang the team song and we're sitting around having a chat, and Jesse's drinking his coke while we're all having a beer.
"He's pretty happy with it."
Siddons has spoken to Ryder about when he plans to make himself available for international selection again. The tour of South Africa, starting in mid-December, seems highly unlikely, with the home series against England in February an obvious target.
"My gut feeling is: don't ask him yet. Wait till maybe England one-dayers and T20s. It seems a good fit but it's certainly up to Jesse and I wouldn't be trying to prompt him into anything."
For now, as Siddons pointed out, it's only game one of a long season. Let's see how Ryder carries on, although he's been comfortable in the Firebirds setup and "doing everything right".
Yesterday's final day began with Wellington having an outside sniff of victory. After Doug Bracewell blasted 85, CD set them 342 to win off 82 overs. When Ryder was done, Wellington got home with 15 overs to spare.
The Firebirds were teetering at 34-2 before Ryder seized control in a 196-minute domination. He hit 23 fours and two sixes; scoring his first 50 off 39 balls and his 12th first-class century off 85 deliveries.
All-rounder Luke Woodcock (69 not out) saw the chase home and Siddons insisted it wasn't just the Jesse show. "We bowled 50-odd maidens which we've never done.
"The bowling group were amazing on a really flat wicket and says big things for our future."
That future includes two T20 matches at Westpac Stadium on November 9 and 16.