CD primed for Firebirds clash

Central Districts will be riding a wave of good form as they head into the real part of the HRV Cup against the Wellington Firebirds on Boxing Day.

The Stags are leading the four-day Plunket Shield which now takes a break until February, as white clothes are put away for a month while the Twenty20 tournament is on.

While some teams have Twenty20 matches this weekend, CD don't play until Wednesday, so they will be heading home for a few days before the game. But Stags coach Alan Hunt believes they will hit the ground running against Wellington.

CD are coming off decent form so far, they top the Plunket Shield table with a 17-point lead over Otago.

Other teams have games this weekend ahead of CD and Hunt said it wouldn't be easy because of the way the Plunket Shield has been interrupted by a HRV Cup match every Friday.

It has made it hard to gain continuity due to the stop-start nature of playing different formats but they are playing well despite it.

"The team is in good heart, we're doing a lot of things right," he said. "We can still do things better, but it's always a good thing from a coach's point of view."

In their two Twenty20 matches this season, CD have lost to Wellington by 55 runs and Northern Districts by six wickets.

Hunt said "mentally we've got some guys who are pretty weary", so a few days off will do them good and it will give most of the squad members who have been nursing injuries a chance to get right.

"We've just got to tick a few boxes over the next couple of days with guys for Boxing Day. Early reports are looking like we're going to be as close to full strength as we can be."

Manawatu pace bowler Adam Milne should be over his Achilles injury by then and Hunt was hopeful of seeing leg-spinner Tarun Nethula back from a shoulder dislocation and captain Kieran Noema-Barnett back from a calf injury.

But Hunt had no definite answer to the question on everyone's lips, of when Ross Taylor is going to pull on a Stags' shirt this summer.

Hunt said both CD and Taylor are keen for him to play, but it is just a matter of time as to when he will be available.

Paceman Ben Wheeler is still sidelined with an abdominal injury while Black Cap Jacob Oram will be available as will English import Peter Trego.

Zimbabwe seamer Kyle Jarvis has again been added to the Stags books for the HRV Cup and two Plunket Shield matches, after the import impressed with his wicket-taking ability during his stint with CD late last season.

Manawatu pace bowler Bevan Small had a decent return to the first-class side in the match against Otago this week, taking 2- 90 for the match and chipped in with a handy 28 from 67 balls with the bat.

Although they are in a favourable position to win the four-day competition, Hunt said they won't sit back on their lead and would still fight to make runs and take wickets when it restarts at the end of next month.

Manawatu Standard