Tom Blundell could be excused if he doesn’t excitedly ring in the new year.
The Black Caps wicketkeeper-batter entered the record books in the drawn first test in Karachi to cap off a superb 2022 with the gloves and bat for the test side he probably didn’t want to end.
Blundell became the first New Zealand wicketkeeper to take three stumpings in a test match, removing Imam-ul-Haq Abdullah Shafique and Shan Masood off three different bowlers – Ajaz Patel, Michael Bracewell and Ish Sodhi – over Pakistan’s two innings.
Only one keeper – India’s Vijay Rajindernath – has taken more stumpings in a test in Pakistan, with four in his only appearance in 1952.
Blundell also took three catches in the first game of the two-test series and made 47 with the bat.
Black Caps bowling coach Shane Jurgensen described Blundell’s performance in Karachi as “one of the best I’ve ever seen from a New Zealand keeper in these conditions.”
The 32-year-old, who made a century on test debut replacing an injured BJ Watling against the West Indies at the Basin Reserve in December 2017, didn’t become the first-choice glovesman until Watling retired following the World Test Championship final victory over India in June last year.
Blundell kept tidily in the two tests in India in December but made just 23 runs in four innings, then followed that up with a poor showing against Bangladesh in the shock defeat in New Zealand’s first test of the year in Mount Maunganui.
That led to talk of pressure to hold his place against challenges from Cam Fletcher and Dane Cleaver, but he responded with 57 not out in the second test win in Christchurch and then made 96 in the first innings of NZ’s first test win over South Africa at the same venue.
Far better was to come in England – the Wellingtonian had a remarkable test series with the bat despite the tourists losing all three matches, making scores of 14, 96, 106, 24, 55 and 88no.
He was involved in four century stands in the late middle-order with Daryl Mitchell – the duo combined for 195 at Lord’s, 236 at Nottingham and 120 and 113 at Leeds.
His glovework has also been excellent – the host broadcasters in the first test in Karachi claimed Blundell had not missed a catch or a stumping opportunity in the eight tests he’s played this year.
Blundell said a pre-match conversation with Black Caps batting coach and former test keeper Luke Ronchi had been invaluable, the key message being to embrace the challenge of keeping in Pakistan conditions rather than shy away from it.
“Getting those two stumpings early in the game gave me confidence for the rest of the time in the field, very happy with where my keeping is at,” Blundell said.
It was about “staying down as long as possible” and concentrating to overcome the various factors such as the low and slow nature of the wickets, the heat and fatigue, the developing rough outside off stump and the fact Pakistan boasts several left-handers.
“In these conditions knowing that you’re going to be in the game a lot more than at home, which is nice, so you’ve just got to be switched on every ball and hopefully when that opportunity does come you take it.”
With the second test starting in Karachi on Monday, Blundell ended 2022 with 644 test runs at an average of 58.54, while taking 29 catches and four stumpings.