Willem Ludick once ran out his friend Dean Foxcroft with his score on 98 … and then went on to make a century. It remains a source of cheerful banter to this day.
They were young boys at the time, playing junior cricket together, never imagining that one day they would be making their Domestic Twenty20 debuts side by side — in a completely different country.
The two young Central Stags all-rounders have each had an exciting start to their domestic careers. Ludick scored his maiden first-class century — an unbeaten 116 at Saxton Oval against Canterbury in October — in his very first innings as a contracted professional player for the Stags.
It was just his second first-class appearance overall after having made his debut late in the previous season, when the Nelson and Central Districts A rep was called up to play the Firebirds in a tense Bason Reserve draw. He did his part with both bat and ball in what would become a championship-winning summer for the Stags.
The brisk 21-year-old all-rounder is now averaging just a shade under 50.00 with the bat after five first-class Plunket Shield caps, and went oh-so-close to scoring a maiden Ford Trophy half-century with a List A score of 46 in his debut white-ball season with the Stags this summer.
Then, at Pukekura Park on New Year’s Eve, Ludick made his Burger King Super Smash T20 debut alongside who else but his longtime friend from Pretoria, 20-year-old Dean Foxcroft.
Foxcroft, too, had already played Ford Trophy cricket for the Stags this season — as an uncontracted player, called in from CD A and Hawke’s Bay rep cricket. He made his one-day Ford Trophy debut against the Otago Volts in Alexandra in November, the pair batting together — and no runouts were involved!
A few days later, in just his second List A appearance, Foxcroft scored his maiden one-day century — an imposing unbeaten 120 off just 105 balls at Seddon Park. The feat would be overshadowed at the time by a world record performance by ND’s Brett Hampton and Joe Carter, who peeled 43 runs off a single over, Foxcroft watching on at close quarters as his good mate repeatedly got hit out of the park.
‘Willem bowled awesomely in that match — he was just really unlucky in that last over. He’s an aggressive bowler and was bowling against two batsmen set in the 80s and 90s and full of confidence. It was tough to watch, but I knew he would bounce back.’
Now the pair is part of an exciting Super Smash campaign that has seen the Central Stags move into second spot on the points table, with six of the 10 rounds completed. If the Stags keep up their winning form, they will stand a good chance of reaching the Grand Final for a third consecutive year.
Despite an ultimately frustrating debut for the pair in the shortest format, Foxcroft has again quickly turned heads. He belted a maiden T20 half-century in just his second Super Smash game — moving up the order and slamming 56 off just 41 balls against the Otago Volts in Napier last week, as well as claiming a big maiden wicket in opening batsman Hamish Rutherford.
Ludick turned heads in the same game by claiming a screamer of a catch at point to dismiss Shawn Hicks.
Incredibly, Foxcroft arguably outdid that stunning effort in the very next match with a sharp, flying grab of his own to remove Stephen Murdoch for no score at Hagley Oval, one of three catches in the innings for the burly youngster. Roll in his impressive 12 first-class wickets as an off-spinning all-rounder from his first two Plunket Shield appearances — including a haul of 4-57 on debut in Alexandra in December, then a maiden five-wicket bag (5-67) in Nelson — and the two rising stars can claim to have made an impact for their team already in each of the three formats.
It’s a long way from their formative years in Pretoria, but the two former South Africa U19 stars — Foxcroft having captained Ludick at the ICC U19 World Cup in Bangladesh in early 2016 — are loving the opportunity to show their skills and grow their careers in New Zealand alongside each other.
‘We go a long way back,’ says Ludick, whose youthful admiration for the All Blacks first made him think about pursuing his career in New Zealand. ‘We’ve played cricket together since we were eight or nine years old, and we’ve been mates since then. It’s obviously surreal playing with your mate in a different country — and we never even planned coming over here together.
‘We’ve been playing for the Stags together for most of this season, so it’s almost normal now, but it is a strange coincidence and quite cool.’
Foxcroft says he never imagined in his wildest dreams that he would get to debut alongside his old childhood friend — even after having been picked for his first CD XI appearances alongside Ludick in a series of one-dayers against Afghanistan U19 and India U19 in Napier last summer.
‘But it was nice, and to be thinking about that before the game — it was special. We were at different primary and high schools in South Africa, but we had played club cricket together from when we were at a young age.’
‘We always had a bond,’ Ludick chimes in. ‘Mutual respect, I guess.’
They’ll just try not to run each other out next time they’re in the 90s together.
The Central Stags’ next Burger King Super Smash match is 7.10pm this Saturday evening at Napier’s McLean Park when they host a return fixture against the Canterbury Kings.
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