Sunday, March 20, 2011

Marc Ellis as a cricketer

Last weekend’s Twenty20 Earthquake Relief Cricket Match at the Basin raised $500,000 for Christchurch. Well done to all those involved in organising the match. A full report was posted on Cricket Wellington’s website.
I was interested to see All Black Marc Ellis back on the cricket field. When I was at Wellington College, he was captain of our First XI (1989-90), a team that in those years was coached by former Wellington player Wilf Haskell and also included future Wellington all-rounder Stephen Mather and future All Whites midfielder Simon Elliott who impressed at last year’s FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Marc Ellis was first coached by his father and cricket lover Chris Ellis ( who played for Kilbirnie Cricket Club and who gave Marc the cricket initials “MCG” Ellis). Marc was a schoolboy all-rounder, could bat and bowl and also kept wickets. At age 10 he played for a local Hutt Valley rep side at Wellesley College in Eastbourne. He was also an U18 Wellington rep. I was looking through my old copies of The Wellingtonian, the annual record of Wellington College, not to be confused with the community paper of the same name. There’s mention of Ellis as a wicket-keeper batsman in the 1988 season highlights: ‘M. Ellis 73 v Hastings’ and a partnership of ‘107 between Ellis (68) and Stephen Mather (49) v New Plymough Boys High School’. In the traditional fixture against Wanganui Collegiate, Ellis blazed 49 in the First Innings. Against Hastings, Ellis batted 'intelligently and with great flair’ in a 5th wicket partnership of 127 with Brian Watson.
The captain’s report by Alex Blades reads: ‘The First XI of 1988 was an impressive side. The team’s strength lay in its depth and diversity of talent: the batting line-up was strong and dependable, the bowling attack versatile and consistent while fielding was generally steady without being exceptional. Of its nineteen matches, the Eleven was unbeaten in all but two.’
I gather from Ellis's biography Crossing the Line that he played some club cricket after Wellington College but then gave up the game for rugby. He continued to play in the Auckland Business House cricket competition after retirement from rugby league and rugby. Ellis states: 'Of all the games I've ever played in my life, cricket is my favourite...I still play cricket now and I just love spending a whole day in the sun with my mates, having a laugh.' Ellis showed something of his batting ability in the earthquake charity Twenty20 making a useful 25 not out off 11 balls, including two fours and two sixes. His bowling was less successful with 41 runs taken from his two overs.
That same year of Ellis's cricket successes, 1988, the Wellington College Cricket Pavilion was opened at on the 15th of October by the then Governor-General of New Zealand Sir Paul Reeves. Those at the ceremony included former New Zealand batsman Johnny Beck who played against South Africa with Sutcliffe and Blair in the famous Second Test at the rugby ground Ellis Park, 1953/54 season. Sir Paul and John were teammates in the Wellington College First XI of the late 1940s.
Here are some of my own Wellington College cricket memories, composed in the form of cricket haiku, though traditionally haiku don’t have titles, I decided they work well nevertheless:


Four Wellington College poems, late 1980s

1 Watching

mid game -
the terraces slowly filling
with disquiet

2 Net Practice

after school–
the small kid
bounced first ball

3 In the covers

big hit down the ground –
the tall boy sweeping
dries his forehead

4 Visiting Government House

jumping the fence
I retrieve the ball –
Sir Paul Reeves smiles

Article and poems © Mark Pirie 2011

(Sources: Wellingtonian 1988, Wellingtonian 1990; Marc Ellis: Crossing the Line, with Kirsten Matthew (Hodder Moa, Auckland, 2006) and Cricket Wellington's website)

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