Rippon unsung hero with bat and ball

Otago all-rounder Michael Rippon prepares to play a  drive during a training session at the Edgar...
Otago all-rounder Michael Rippon prepares to play a drive during a training session at the Edgar Centre yesterday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Michael Rippon is like glitter next to sequins.

All anyone notices is the shiny discs. But peer a bit more closely and you will see it is not just the sequins which are sparkling.

The leg-spinner’s efforts have certainly not gone unnoticed. But there has been much noise around him.

Jacob Duffy keeps taking five-wicket bags, for example. Hamish Rutherford’s rich form with the bat has also attracted a lot of attention.

Brad Wilson scored his maiden one-day century in the dramatic four-wicket win against Canterbury at the weekend.

Laudable efforts, all of them. But Rippon has arguably had the greater impact over the one-day campaign.

Otago has won six of its nine games and has secured a spot in the playoffs with one round-robin game remaining.

Behind just about every one of those wins is a hidden achievement by Rippon.

Neil Broom sealed the 16-run win against Central Districts with a stunning run-out. His undefeated 68 with the bat proved telling as well. But Rippon quietly claimed three wickets to help dismiss Central for 194.

When Rutherford stroked a wonderful 154 to set up a 62-run win against Canterbury later that week, Rippon claimed the important wicket of opener Jack Boyle, who had been playing nicely.

Duffy claimed the honours in the tense seven-run win against Wellington with a five-wicket haul. But Rippon helped salvage the innings with a gutsy knock of 42.

"Rips" was instrumental in the three-wicket win against Auckland  with an undefeated 38. He also picked up the key wickets to help restrict the Aces to 250 for nine.

And on Sunday he played a clutch knock to help Otago beat Canterbury in a last-over thriller. We could have just said Rippon has scored 212 runs at an average of 42.40 and taken 12 wickets at 26.75 and left it at that. But that would gloss over just how valuable his contributions have been.

"It is going very well," Rippon said.

"I just feel a lot of the work we have been doing over the last few years is starting to pay dividends.

"And on a personal note, I’m happy with the way I’m trucking at the moment and want to keep it going."

Otago has had a lean run in the past two seasons. It finished last in five of the six tournaments. With a raft of high-profile departures this season, expectations were not high.

But the Volts have surprised with their form. Perhaps the biggest improvement has been made at the top of the batting order.

The Volts are getting off to better starts and preserving wickets for longer.

That has made an enormous difference. But Rippon feels the team is also winning more of the key moments and that came down to a calmer approach and trying to take the game deeper.

"We’re not panicking," he said, adding the team was taking longer to soak up the pressure.

"There is nothing wrong with losing but you want to get down to a position where the game is in the balance. Sometimes you can look at the scoreboard and think you are so far out and throw in the towel.

"But for me it is about being competitive for the full 100 overs."

The Volts’ final round-robin game is against Auckland in Invercargill tomorrow. Auckland will need a bonus-point win and to improve its net run rate to overtake Otago in the standings.

Northern Districts will need to beat competition leader Wellington in Whangarei and hope Auckland loses to make the playoffs, while Central Districts will host Canterbury in a bottom-of-the-table clash.

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