This time last year Wellington coach Jamie Siddons opined that new recruit Luke Ronchi might average 50 in New Zealand first-class cricket, when he came "home" from Australia.
Feeling that was a bit bold, Siddons then revised his prediction to 40. Turns out he was miles off.
In eight Plunket Shield appearances for the Firebirds, including last summer's one-off cameo, Ronchi had scored 700 runs, averaging 70 before yesterday. By stumps on day two of Wellington's clash with Auckland at the Basin Reserve, the wicket-keeper batsman was 120 not out, pushing that average up to more than double what Siddons felt was safe to forecast.
It's not just the number of runs, though, but the speed with which they come. Wellington were 152 for four when Ronchi came to the wicket yesterday and he took his score to two not out at tea.
Come the end of the day the Firebirds were 368 for six, giving them a first-innings lead of 22 after taking Auckland's last five wickets for 22 in the morning session.
"I'm happy as Larry," Ronchi said.
And why wouldn't he be?
Yesterday's was his fourth hundred of the season, to go with the one he made on debut at the end of last summer, plus the 95 he made in Wellington's 20-run loss to Canterbury in the previous Plunket Shield round.
"I didn't expect that. You obviously aim to make as many as you can but I never set myself to score this many hundreds," said the Dannevirke-born former Australian representative.
"I'm just in a better head space than I have been for a long time so, confidence-wise, I feel good and I feel good in my game and my technique and stuff, and that's made a big difference.
"It's been awesome."
Although not good enough to earn him a game for New Zealand yet. Ronchi completed his four-year stand-down from international cricket last month, having decided to commit his future to the land of his birth.
This week's New Zealand XI Twenty20 games against England is the closest he's got thus far but the Black Caps are not so good that they can afford to leave a player of Ronchi's class on the sidelines indefinitely.
"I had a chat with Hesson [New Zealand coach and selector Mike Hesson] during the NZ XI games, so that was good. He just wanted to see how I was travelling . . . and I just have to keep making runs and keep putting pressure on the selectors," said Ronchi.
"If you make enough runs, at some stage they're going to have to say: he's done enough and we'll have to give him a go."
Ronchi could have made more than 120 yesterday had it not been for his comical 55-run partnership with an injured Jesse Ryder, who couldn't run because of a groin problem.
Auckland set their field back and Ronchi basically stood there with an open-wicket net.
"It was a big thing to keep my head through that," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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