Michael Bracewell raises his bat after scoring a stunning century. Photo / photosport.nz
A lifetime of batting tuition and a career of domestic toil culminated in Michael Bracewell playing one of New Zealand’s most spectacular ODI innings yesterday.
The fact it came in a loss lessened some of
the gloss but did nothing to detract from the ferocity on display throughout two blistering hours in Hyderabad.
Bracewell walked to the crease for his 17th ODI as the most recent member of a Kiwi cricketing dynasty, with an explosive style developed during 12 years on the domestic scene.
More pertinently, he walked to the crease with the Black Caps teetering on 110-5, almost halfway through a chase of 350 that was going nowhere fast in the first ODI against India.
What followed was a knock that surely exceeded the wildest dreams that ran through the head of father Mark when he first handed his young son a cricket bat.
Bracewell struck the third-fastest ODI century for the Black Caps, coming from 57 deliveries, and finished with the highest score by a New Zealander in India, reaching 140 runs from 78 balls before his miracle bid fell barely short.
His final-over dismissal saw the tourists beaten by 12 runs, undone by an equally electric innings of 208 from 145 by India opener Shubman Gill.
The outcome seemed less significant – and, somehow, Bracewell’s knock seemed even more outrageous than that of cricket’s 10th ODI double-centurion.
Part of that owed to context and part to pure power. New Zealand’s cause had seemed lost when Bracewell’s blitz began, sitting on 136-6 in the 31st over, with the allrounder on a run-a-ball 14.
Bracewell proceeded to strike at 197 across the rest of his innings and, from that early juncture, 100 of his remaining 126 runs were scored in boundaries.
His final strikerate of 179 dwarfed Gill (140) and sat almost alone when assessing the previous ODI master blasts for the Black Caps.
Of the 17 innings exceeding Bracewell’s score of 140, one came with a strike rate of more than 150 – Luke Ronchi’s 172 when he blazed an unbeaten 170 against Sri Lanka in 2015.
Ronchi is now the Black Caps batting coach but Bracewell’s chief tutor has remained the same for almost three decades.
“My dad’s probably the one I talk to most,” he said. “He’s given me great advice right from when I was a two-year-old first picking up a cricket bat.”
Mark Bracewell, unlike brothers Brendon and John, never played for New Zealand. In fact, he played only two matches for Otago. But his lessons from him for Michael were clearly effective-eventually.
Bracewell racked up more than 100 list A games before pulling on the black cap, making his international debut last year against the Netherlands.
Despite the late elevation, he’s already played what Wisden voted as the best ODI innings of 2022, an unbeaten 127 from 82 that rescued the Black Caps from defeat by Ireland.
This most recent revival didn’t quite do likewise, but being capable of match-changing knocks at No 7 makes the 31-year-old a likely starter for this year’s World Cup in India.
“It’s one of those things where, once you’re able to get over the line once, then you start believing that you can do it again,” Bracewell said. “When I walked out to bat I was optimistic that we could win the game.”
The belief never left Bracewell during his long domestic grind, watching as cousin Doug made some notable international interventions of his own. Now starring in front of millions in India, Bracewell doesn’t discount the importance of time out of the spotlight.
“The benefit I had was I was able to get a bit of experience in domestic cricket and really understand the way that I want to play,” he said. “I came into international cricket going ‘this is how I’m successful domestically’, so I just want to try and emulate that in the international game.
“So far there’s been some patchy moments, but when it comes off it feels pretty good.”