Devon Conway missed out on a well-deserved century in the first T20I of the five-match series against Australia at the Hagley Oval, Christchurch. The 29-year-old smashed a free-flowing 99 off just 59 balls, consisting of 10 fours and 3 sixes. Conway has literally been on fire recently with scores of 99*(59), 93*(63), 91*(58), 69*(51), 50(40) in his last 5 T20 appearances, becoming the first New Zealand men’s cricketer in the process to hit five successive half-centuries in Twenty20 cricket. Conway joined Virender Sehwag, Hamilton Masakadza, Kamran Akmal, Jos Buttler and Warner as the only batsmen to have achieved the feat.
What have I done: Devon Conway on the day he sold everything and moved to New Zealand
South African by birth, Conway lived in Johannesburg till the age of 25 before shifting to New Zealand in 2017 for fresh opportunities in cricket. While he performed remarkably well at the provincial-level in first-class cricket, he could not translate his potential into the franchise cricket due to lack of opportunities and lack of clarity regarding his playing role. In Conway’s own words, “At the Lions I was floating in the batting line-up. I was used at the top of the order, in the middle order and I even batted at No.7 in a four-day game. I was never really glued to a position in that setup.”
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One day, in a candid conversation with his partner Kim while playing Golf at Johannesburg’s Huddle Park, Conway told her that he felt his game was not going anywhere in South Africa and he was keen on going to New Zealand. Her partner said ‘Why don’t we go? Conway replied: ‘Are you serious’, and she said: ‘If you really want to do it then let’s commit to it’.”
That conversation kick started Conway’s long and winding journey towards Black Caps selection. Conway visited his parents for dinner that evening and they supported him fully in his decision. “They were fully on board. They said: ‘It could be one of the best decisions of your life’.” Conway sent his cricket CV to Auckland and Wellington clubs in New Zealand, and was well-guided by his former teammates Malcolm Nofal and Michael Rippon, who had moved to New Zealand and were playing domestic cricket for Wellington and Otago respectively.
The then 25-year old sold his car and three-bedroom house, and booked the tickets to New Zealand. On the plane to NZ, Conway recalled one moment about two hours from touchdown where he was seized by intense fear and he thought “what have we done?”. But he overcame his doubts and the couple landed in Wellington to start their new life. Reflecting on his decision to move to NZ, Conway said, “I realised you're only young once, so we should take the gamble. I don't think it's a decision we will ever regret."
Breaking down the door
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Conway arrived in Wellington in August 2017 and joined Victoria University Cricket Club in a dual capacity as player and coach. A Black Caps call-up for wicket-keeper Tom Blundell saw him summoned to the Wellington Firebirds first-team. A handy backup wicketkeeper, Conway grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He established himself as a reliable top-order batsman by showing extraordinary consistency.
He excelled at all levels and averaged over 40 in T20 and 50-over cricket and in his third Plunket Shield innings, he scored 103 not out against Central Stags. In 2018, he was offered a Cricket Wellington contract and he repaid the club’s faith by scoring a bucket load of runs across all 3 formats. In 2019/20, he topped the run charts in the Plunket Shield (first-class competition), the Ford Trophy (50-over competition) and the Super Smash (T20 competition). His stupendous run-scoring spree led Wellington to the Plunket Shield (which they won for the first time since 2003-04) and Super Smash Title.
Rewarded for consistency with Blackcaps call-up
A super-consistent performer for the last 4 seasons, he was named New Zealand’s domestic player of the year for 2 years in a row. He dominated the run-scoring charts since his arrival and is showing no signs off stopping any time soon. After completing the three-year residency requirement (required for Black Caps selection), the 29-year old was given a central contract and selected for the national team to face West Indies in a 3-match T20I series. He announced his arrival at the international stage in style with a well-compiled 41 off just 29 balls and fired New Zealand to a 5-wicket victory. The 2nd T20I saw Conway smash a 37-ball 65, consisting of 4 fours and 4 sixes. In his T20I career so far, Conway has amassed 273 runs at a deadly strike rate of 157 and a mind-blowing average of 91.
With Conway’s star rising rapidly, it is worth noting all his teammates describe him as one of the humblest guys around. With a sound technique based on aggressive front-foot game and an insatiable hunger to learn, Conway has the world at his feet. The talented left-handed batsman will be a vital cog in the Black Caps top-order for the forthcoming T20 World Cup in India.