New Zealand v Australia: Devon Conway, the T20 batting gem no IPL team wanted
If the Indian Premier League auction had been a month later, Jimmy Neesham reckons Black Caps’ team-mate Devon Conway might have fetched some serious coin.
Conway was instrumental in Monday's 53-run win against Australia in the opening T20 in Christchurch, rescuing New Zealand after they slumped to 19-3, hitting an unbeaten 99 from 59 balls.
The elegant left-hander is in some nick, not being dismissed in nearly a month and scoring five successive T20 half-centuries, four which came for Wellington.
He has scored a whopping 352 runs since last getting out in a domestic T20 on January 25.
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The New Zealand and Australian squads touched down in Dunedin on the same plane on Tuesday ahead of Thursday's second T20. Former Otago Volt Neesham spoke to media at Dunedin Airport and Conway dominated the discussion.
Conway put his name forward at Thursday’s IPL auction with a reserve price of 50 lakh (NZ$95,000), but wasn’t purchased by any of the eight teams.
Watching his match-defining innings at Hagley, Neesham, who plays alongside Conway at the Firebirds, said some IPL teams might regret not scooping up a bargain.
“If the auction was a couple of months later it might have been a different story. I'm certainly happy to be playing with him for both Wellington and New Zealand and get to watch him from the other end of the wicket, rather than having to bowl to him,” said Neesham, who suits up for the Mumbai Indians.
Conway played down not being picked up in the IPL auction and said there was no disappointment on his part.
He could still end up featuring in the lucrative tournament, if injuries occur and a team calls on his services.
“It was sort of putting my name in the hat to see how it goes,” Conway said.
“It was pretty much trying to work through the process of how it all happens and a nice learning curve to do that. Definitely not surprised by not being picked up. It was just a nice little opportunity to see what the whole process was about.”
South African-born Conway has scored heavily in domestic cricket since moving to New Zealand in 2017 and joining Wellington.
Since becoming eligible to represent the Black Caps and making his T20 debut against the West Indies in November, he has thrived, scoring 273 runs from five innings at 91. It seems just a matter of time when he will get an opportunity in the ODI side (surely against Bangladesh next month), and a first test cap.
Having seen him plunder hefty scores for Wellington and win many matches on his own, Neesham wasn’t shocked by what he was doing.
“He's shown quite evidently in the last couple of months he's got what it takes to succeed at the international level.
"We've seen him churn out runs in the domestic circuit over the last four or five seasons that not a lot of people have the ability to do.
“For him to come up to international level earlier in the summer against the West Indies and Pakistan and take to it like a fish to water was pretty impressive.”
Conway read the situation perfectly in Monday's win after New Zealand were in early trouble at 19-3. He never panicked and built crucial partnerships with Glenn Phillips, Neesham, and then Mitchell Santner which got the Black Caps to a respectable score of 184-5.
He deserved a maiden T20I ton and looked like he was going to get there, clubbing Kane Richardson for a four and six off the fourth and fifth deliveries in the final over. On 98 on the final ball of the innings, Conway was only able to pick up a single, being stranded on 99 not out.
Judging the tempo of an innings was one of Conway's many strong batting traits. Neesham said it enabled him to accelerate in the closing stages against Australia.
“He's a unique kind of batsman I guess. Sometimes he looks like he's not that comfortable at the crease and he looks like he's not timing the ball that well, but then you look at the scorecard and he's 50 off 40 and putting a real good performance in for the team.
“I think the best thing about him, as a guy who bats behind him, is he doesn't give it away that often, he really grinds through those tough patches.
“You saw [on Monday] it probably took him 30 or 40 balls to start timing the ball really nicely, but after that he really opened the game up for us.”