Michael Papps was a Black Cap before his time

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 24/12/2013
Michael Papps
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TOP CLASS: Michael Papps was named Cricket Wellington's player of the year.

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Michael Papps knows he's a better batsman than when he last played for New Zealand in 2007.

Unfortunately for the 34-year-old Wellington opener, it appears as if he'll never get a chance to put that to the test.

Papps scored the 25th first-class century of his career yesterday, and second of the Plunket Shield season, to solidify his position as the competition's top runscorer this summer, with 654 at an average of 109.

His 103 not out enabled Wellington to comfortably draw their game at Karori Park against table-toppers Canterbury, with the match called off just after tea with the Firebirds 133-0 in their second innings, still well short of the 395 they needed to win.

At least it provided Papps an opportunity to put on another batting masterclass. Canterbury have run through Wellington's top order with ease lately, but the little right-hander wasn't prepared to play for survival. He went to 50 in 36 balls, before bringing up his hundred off the 115th he'd faced.

To put that into some perspective, at the other end Stephen Murdoch laboured 122 for 17 not out while earlier in the match Canterbury's Tom Latham took 185 balls to reach three figures and Rob Nicol spent 217 compiling 87, on a wicket where quick scoring was a challenge.

"I'm not sure, it's not up to me unfortunately," Papps said when asked why he couldn't get an international look-in.

"The guys are playing pretty well at the top of the order in that team and that one-day side that's been selected is a strong batting unit. It's just a matter of me trying to keep scoring runs and and if an opportunity comes along, then taking it."

It's been indicated that Papps is not as athletic as the Black Caps would prefer, but you'd like to think that any runs he might give away in the park would be more than made up for with the bat.

"I feel as if I'm playing as well as I ever had, from early last season through to now. It's pleasing at this stage of my career that I'm still learning and improving and playing as well as I ever have.

"That's why it'd be nice to push on and hopefully play international cricket because I feel as if I'm playing better than when I did get the chance."

It's an irony that's not lost on Papps. Such is dearth of talent in this country that guys get picked on promise, found out and then discarded. He was 24 when he first played for New Zealand and at 34 is far closer to the finished article.

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Yesterday's draw did little to change the competition, with Canterbury extending their lead over second-placed Wellington by just two points.

- The Dominion Post

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