Inspired by the annual Black Clash of rugby and cricket stars, a Manawatū school is staging its own Twenty20 battle for its big sporting names.
Dubbed the Slog Sweep, Friday’s cricket game features a host of former Palmerston North Boys’ High School students who’ve gone on to have illustrious careers.
And the match pays homage to old boy Ross Taylor, who retired from international cricket this year.
The game’s organisers – Boys’ High’s old boys liaison and former teacher Stuart Leighton, and community relations manager Rachel Wenham – talk to RNZ from the school’s cricket pavilion, with the cricket honours board in the background.
Spanning 120 years, the board includes most of the 15 players who have represented New Zealand since, including legends of the past such as Victor Pollard and Bryan Yuile. It’s surrounded by memorabilia, such as a New Zealand shirt from Ian Smith and a signed picture of Jacob Oram.
Some names of the past will be padding up on Friday too – Taylor, Mathew Sinclair, Jamie How and Dane Cleaver, alongside a host of rep cricketers and rugby players.
“We started this concept as a fun game of cricket,” Wenham said. “It was just going to be a lot of fun and a lot of laughs, but it became a really big occasion.”
Leighton said: “Essentially what we’re looking for is a Manawatū version of the Black Clash.”
During the early planning stages, Taylor ended his 16-year career in international cricket.
“Slog-sweep is obviously Ross Taylor’s signature, go-to shot in one day internationals and Twenty20s,” Leighton said.
“Part of this is an acknowledgement of Ross’ career and his loyalty to the school and Manawatū.”
Taylor was a boarder at Palmerston North Boys’ High School, and despite his success since still remembers his time with fondness.
“I think I got five hundreds in the two years I was there. I got two hundreds in one match, which for a schoolboy was pretty good,” Taylor said.
“The school holds a dear place in my heart and I look forward to catching up with a lot of team-mates I haven’t seen for a few years.”
Although he’s hung up his black cap, Taylor still plays in tournaments around the world.
“I still enjoy the game. When you’re still enjoying it, and still fit enough and hungry enough to keep training, then why not?
“Yes, I’m getting on, but if you can still enjoy it and give it your all you might as well keep continuing to do it.”
Sinclair, who famously scored 200 on test debut against the West Indies, has some advice for his former team-mate.
“I’d still like Ross to play in the V more often, but he’ll have me on about that,” Sinclair said.
“The concept around a slog-sweep is a great way to go about it. I’ve always given him [Taylor] grief about it … but he’s a fine player.
“It’s a good chance to catch up with Ross and see how his book sales have been going.”
Taylor’s book, Black and White, was released in August.
Sinclair still plays senior club cricket, but hasn’t batted this year.
Like Taylor, he enjoyed his time at the school, which he put down to the integration of education and sport.
Not surprisingly for a school steeped in sport, even its rector David Bovey is a former rep cricketer, and he’ll likely send down a couple of overs of tight off-spin.
“My last game was probably 10 years ago. I went to have a bowl in the nets on Saturday. It wasn’t impressive, to be honest.
“By the end it wasn’t too bad. I’m just trying to get it down to the other end and only bounce once,” Bovey said.
Half-time entertainment is from another old boy, Levi Sherwood, and his freestyle motocross team.
The cricket begins at 2.30pm on Friday at Palmerston North’s Fitzherbert Park.
Story Credit: rnz.co.nz