Brodie once again cursed by injury
Opening batsman Josh Brodie is out with a hamstring strain, but otherwise the Wellington cricket side will just about be at full strength for their Plunket Shield opener against Central Districts.
James Franklin will be absent due to international duty, but everyone else is on deck for a match that the Firebirds will enter as favourites.
It's been a long time since Wellington looked a sure bet to win, but they possess a level of quality and experience that CD shouldn't be able to match when the four-day game gets under way at Napier's Nelson Park on Sunday.
Brodie's had a wretched run with broken bones in the last three years, so by comparison, a slight hamstring strain is pretty minor. Even so, it's still a disappointment to everyone at Cricket Wellington.
"He doesn't have much luck, unfortunately," said CW's director of cricket Robbie Kerr.
In Brodie's absence, new Plunket Shield captain Stephen Murdoch will open the batting with Michael Papps, with Michael Pollard and then Jesse Ryder to follow. From there it's a bit of a movable feast, due to the fulltime addition of wicketkeeper-batsman Luke Ronchi.
He's due to arrive in Wellington today, having represented his old Perth Scorchers team at the Twenty20 Champions League in South Africa.
Ronchi played one match for Wellington last summer, belting 111 against CD at Karori Park, but might only come in at seven in this game, behind Grant Elliott and Luke Woodcock.
"There's some good debate around that order," Kerr said. "You've got Ronchi, who's got a pretty good average for Wellington at this stage, and Luke Woodcock's averaged over 50 for the last three years, so you don't want those guys sliding down too low.
"But Grant Elliott was [Wellington] cricketer of the year three out of the last six years so his record stacks up."
That meant there was no place in the Firebirds' 12 for all-rounder Harry Boam, a regular across all three formats last summer.
Kerr said Ryder could provide the overs of medium pace that Boam ordinarily would, while the middle order was already congested enough.
Queensland quick bowler Dane Hutchinson looms as the likely 12th man, with Wellington looking to go into the match with three fast bowlers and Jeetan Patel as their frontline spinner.
Opening bowler Mark Gillespie got through 25 overs, across two days, during the team's tune-up match against Northern Districts at Mount Maunganui and will be joined in the pace attack by Andy McKay and Scott Kuggeleijn.
Gillespie has been slowed by an ankle injury during the pre-season but, providing he suffers no adverse effects from his bowling loads against ND, he'll be fit for Sunday.
HOW THEY LINE UP
Wellington 12 to meet Central Districts: Stephen Murdoch (c), Michael Papps, Michael Pollard, Jesse Ryder, Grant Elliott, Luke Woodcock, Luke Ronchi, Jeetan Patel, Mark Gillespie, Scott Kuggeleijn, Andy McKay, Dane Hutchinson.
- The Dominion Post
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