Apr 112014

He took nine years to complete his university degree and 16 years to become New Zealand’s most prolific wicketkeeper. On both counts, former Black Cap Gareth Hopkins hung up his gloves a happy man this week.

The 37-year-old Auckland captain hoped to slip quietly away from first-class cricket to a new life in Tauranga with wife Bernadette and sons George, 4, and Henry, 3, but the cat galloped out of the bag.

Having turned up at the national one-day final in Mt Maunganui and chatted to former team-mates in the commentary box, he was suddenly being interviewed on television announcing the end of his career.

“That’s more my style [departing quietly] but I hadn’t caught up with Chris Martin for a while and went to see him and they cornered me,” Hopkins said. “Definitely no regrets. You can look back and pick certain innings apart but I’ll look back on some great memories and lifetime friends.”

His record-breaking achievement passed with little fanfare, during the December test against West Indies in Dunedin. Hopkins went past Ian Smith’s 22-year-old mark of 426 dismissals, and he finished with 435 catches and 26 stumpings for a grand total of 461. He was no slug with the bat either, scoring 7550 runs at 36.65, including 17 centuries, from his 158 matches.

Born in Lower Hutt and raised in Taupo, Hopkins never played for Wellington but donned the caps of Northern Districts, Canterbury, Otago, then Auckland for the final seven years.

He rose to the Auckland captaincy and rates his best cricketing memory as leading them into the main draw of the Twenty20 Champions League in South Africa after they’d been bundled out in qualifying a year earlier.

Current skipper Brendon McCullum left an indelible mark on his career. Not only did Hopkins shift provinces to avoid the country’s top gloveman, he had to await a McCullum absence to get his chance in black.

The birth of McCullum’s son Riley in 2004 handed Hopkins an ODI debut against England at Durham, then four years later his test debut came at Trent Bridge when McCullum tweaked his back at warmups. Peter Fulton had been named to open but with McCullum out, Hopkins was handed his first test cap just before the toss.

“We were both standing there; I was in and Pete was out and I looked at him and said “all right mate”. That was a special moment.

“I’d been touring with the guys for so long as 12th man, backup to Baz [McCullum] and you’ve got to be ready to go. Then when you’re told the night before or match morning that you’re not playing . . . I don’t know how many games I was 12th man in, about five years’ worth I think.”

There were three more tests for Hopkins, all in India in 2010 when McCullum moved up to open, scoring a double-century in Hyderabad.

Hopkins’ eyes were opened to the megastar status of Sachin Tendulkar who travelled separately to the India team on private jets at night to avoid airport crushes.

“You’re bigger than Bollywood and you’re on par with the movie stars. It’s madness. For a cricketer brought up the way we have [been], it’s crazy.

“I was walking up the hotel stairs because the lift was full [in Ahmedabad] and I got stuck halfway up, there were four or five guys lifting a first class airline seat. I said ‘what’s going on’ and they said ‘Sachin doesn’t like his chair so he wants one of these to watch TV’. They were taking it straight to his room.”

Hopkins played four tests, 25 ODIs and 10 Twenty20s. He was awestruck keeping wicket to “the big three” of Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and Tendulkar. Shane Bond was bowling quick and Hopkins struggled to get gloves on some unplayable edges, and he marvelled at Daniel Vettori’s control and variation in the Indian heat.

Now life starts all over again. Last Tuesday Hopkins attended a Massey University graduation ceremony, having completed his business degree in finance and economics in just under a decade.

“My wife made me go and do the parade and sit through the ceremony,” he said with a laugh.

“When you’re on tour a few of the guys are playing poker, watching DVDs or going on excursions and I’d lock myself in my room and knock out an assignment.”

Having moved to Tauranga last year for wife Bernadette’s new job, Hopkins has a degree and a new CV and is out door-knocking.

Coaching or the commentary box doesn’t appeal yet, and he hopes to earn a job on merit. “I’ve got a lot to look forward to with a young family – they sacrificed a hell of a lot. The first year my eldest son was born I was away more than I was home. Now it’s focus on them, which is quite exciting.”

– © Fairfax NZ News

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Mar 102014
Aces name unchanged 12 for Stags match

Gareth Hopkins will lead his side in search of their third win in the competition tomorrow

The Auckland Aces have retained the same 12 for their fourth round Ford Trophy clash with the Central Stags tomorrow.
The Aces still sit on top of the Ford Trophy points table despite their last round loss to the Northern Knights, care of two first up bonus point wins.

That unbeaten record was brought to an abrupt halt in Hamilton on Sunday but coach Matt Horne believes that his side will bounce back at Eden Park tomorrow.

“We got off to a great start in the competition but in the last round we didn’t maintain that consistency of performance across all parts of the game that we nailed in the first two matches. It’s mainly a mindset and attitude thing that we just need to adjust and the guys are well aware of that.”

All teams will now have to fare without their Blackcaps for the remainder of the competition and Horne believes that it’s best to look at that absence in terms of opportunity rather than what’s missing.

“Look there’s no doubt that having your international players around is a benefit and it can help other guys perform even better, but it also provides the chance for different players to really step up and make their mark with their performances.”

The game starts at 10.30am on the Eden Park Outer Oval, with entry free for all.
A team will be named from the following twelve players:
Gareth Hopkins (Captain) (Parnell)
Michael Bates (Suburbs New Lynn)
Craig Cachopa (Takapuna)
Colin de Grandhomme (Howick Pakuranga)
Tipene Friday (Parnell)
Donovan Grobbelaar (Howick Pakuranga)
Anaru Kitchen (Waitakere City)
Robbie O’Donnell (Takapuna)
Matt Quinn (Cornwall)
Jeet Raval (Suburbs New Lynn)
Bhupinder Singh (Papatoetoe)
Jono Sole (Takapuna)

Mar 242013
Aces book home final with big win

Colin Munro played another bludgeoning innings to record his second hundred of the Ford Trophy campaign

The Aces booked themselves a home final in the most emphatic fashion yesterday as a five wicket haul from Chris Martin and a hundred from Colin Munro led them to a 128 run win.

Defending 314 the Aces made no contest of it as Martin and Kyle Mills scythed through the Wizards top order. By the end of the seventh over Canterbury were three down and had only 13 on the board with Martin starting the rot by removing Brad Cachopa and then Mills clean bowling first George Worker and then Tom Latham.

The Wizards set about recovering their innings but struggled to get on top of a demanding Aces attack and suffered another big blow when Bhupinder Singh removed Rob Nicol for 45 to make it 87/5.

Shannan Stewart and Cole McConchie put on 68 for the seventh wicket but the run rate had already spiralled out of control and it was left for Martin to come back and claim the last four wickets to complete a remarkable spell of bowling that netted him a five wicket bag off just 7.4 overs for only 21 runs.

The Canterbury innings definitely struggled under the weight of runs required and that was set up by some quality work from the Aces top and middle order, Colin Munro the stand out contributor with another typically rapid 118 off just 81 balls.

Gareth Hopkins and Craig Cachopa got the Aces heading in the right direction through the early stages but it was when Munro teamed up with all-rounder Donovan Grobbelaar that the Aces really put things together.

The pair added 116 for the sixth wicket and pushed them to a plus-300 score. Grobbelaar played the perfect support role, making sure he ticked the strike back to Munro who was in full flight smashing 9 fours and 6 sixes.

That partnership set the game and the win up for the Aces and their victory sees them play host in the final next Sunday 31 March on Eden Park Outer Oval. That match will start at the earlier time of 10.30am.

The Aces will have to wait until Wednesday to find out who their opposition will be when Canterbury take on Wellington for the second final spot.
Full scorecard

Mar 092013
Kitchen and Hopkins set up Aces win

Gareth Hopkins is congratulated on his century by Colin Munro

The trend of huge scores and close run chases in the Ford Trophy continued at Eden Park No.2 yseterday, with the Aces and Firebirds taking advantage of a quick outfield, flat pitch and cloudless sky. 

The Aces innings was dominated by a 218 run partnership for the second wicket between Anaru Kitchen and Gareth Hopkins. Both men scored chanceless centuries at better than a run a ball, with Kitchen making 131 from 107 (including 5 sixes) and Hopkins 142 from 120, striking 12 fours and always taking opportunities for singles. Colin Munro was promoted up the order to blast 38 from 14 balls with some very clean hitting. 

Hopkins was eventually dismissed in the 49th over, but the damage had been done as Auckland posted an imposing 383 for 7. Jeetan Patel was the pick of the Wellington bowlers with four wickets. 

The Firebirds came out at a million miles an hour, but Ryder was caught early skying the ball, before Ronchi, Elliott and then Franklin joined Papps, who was playing the anchor role. James Franklin made 52 from 49 balls and looked well set before scooping one to Chris Martin, who took a fine catch at short fine leg in what may have been the turning point in the Wellington chase. 

Papps, who survived one dropped chance and being caught from a no-ball, eventually went for 129 from 114 balls. Too much was left to Woodcock, who made a fine rear guard effort of 66 from 47 balls, but he ran out of partners. Mills was again accurate and tight, conceding 58 from his 9.3 overs which, considering the conditions, was a fine effort. He also picked up two wickets.

Full scorecard

Dec 172012
Hopkins and Mills lead Aces fight back

Aces skipper Gareth Hopkins sits on 96 over night

Just as a rout looked on the cards, the Auckland Aces have fought back with an unbeaten 127 run eighth wicket partnership against the Canterbury Wizards at Eden Park Outer Oval, Auckland.

Gareth Hopkins (96*) and Kyle Mills (61) saved the Aces from a huge first-innings deficit and saw their side to 264 for seven at stumps. They still trail the Wizards by 141 runs, who had earlier declared at 405 for nine.

Yesterday’s centurion Gareth Andrew (180*) continued to frustrate the Aces bowling attack at the start of the day and along with Willie Lonsdale (20) took the visitors past 400.

In reply dangerman Lou Vincent went out for a golden duck to leave the Aces one for one.
It only got marginally better, as the Wizards broke through frequently to have the hosts battling at 58 for five.
Phil Mustard then showed some fight with 55 from 100, but proceeded to fall in the 42nd over.

At 132 for six the Aces were in a lot of trouble, but the experienced pair of Hopkins and Mills came together to somewhat rescue the situation.

Hopkins played admirably to finish the day just four short of his ton, while Mills showed a mix of aggression and patience in his 61 from 107.

Together they successfully made sure the home side would not be required to follow on, but will undoubtedly be hoping to kick on and get as close to the Wizards total as possible.

Ryan McCone finished the day with four wickets from his 14 overs for 47 runs, while Andrew backed up his display with the bat with two key wickets as well.

Dec 172012
Friday Nights under Lights!

Skipper Gareth Hopkins is fresh from a century in the last round of the Plunket Shield

The HRV Cup is coming to Auckland this Friday!

The Aces will play their first home game of the HRV Cup season this Friday against the Canterbury Wizards from 7pm.

The chance of three in a row awaits the Aces in the twenty20 format but they’ll have to call on all their reserves of ability and personnel this season as they face the prospect of playing a large chunk of the competition without their Blackcaps.

The good news is that they have two vastly experienced overseas professionals in Andre Adams and Phil Mustard in their ranks as well as the likes of Kyle Mills and Gareth Hopkins to call on.

Their opponents this Friday are yet to get off the mark in the HRV Cup so will be fired up to take on an Aces side that rolled Wellington in their only outing so far this season.

The Aces play three Friday night games starting 21 Dec in the new format for the HRV Cup this season. All of these games are out on the main stadium at Eden Park and gives the chance for people to get a taste of domestic cricket on the big stage.

For these games the number two will be open for kids to play while the action is happening on the main oval.

In between all that Friday night action there’s also the prospect of a local derby against the Northern Knights on Boxing Day at the Outer Oval.  

All in all it’s an exciting period heading into the break and the chance to see some fantastic twenty20 cricket in the HRV Cup at Eden Park!

Game details
HRV Cup schedule


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