Shield confirms CD's supremacy
There was as much a sense of natural justice as there was relief for Central Districts cricket coach Alan Hunt after his team collected the Plunket Shield in Nelson on Saturday.
Central had held a nine-point lead over Otago, the only other remaining team in title contention, heading into the final round, but Central's draw with Northern Districts at Saxton Oval was enough to seal the title after Otago surprisingly lost outright to Wellington at the Basin Reserve.
It completed an impressive season for the Stags, who finished with six wins and two draws from their 10 matches, with Wellington the only team to beat them - twice.
So it was a satisfying mix for Hunt, who expressed delight and pride in his team's efforts.
"We've won more games than anyone else and ultimately that's the reason we won it," he said.
"We would have chased hard this afternoon if we'd needed to, whether we'd have got the result, who knows? I guess we'll never know but I'm really pleased.
"We've certainly played well enough to earn the win and having won six out of 10 is a really great strike rate in terms of wins in four-day cricket."
He had expected Otago to chase down their 200-run target against Wellington, instead losing by 54 runs. And he had always expected a tough challenge from defending champions Northern Districts.
"Otago have chased really well all year and I didn't expect any favours from ND. [Northern] came out and played hard cricket in good batting conditions at a great facility and put it all on us to try and win it and fortunately we didn't have to go down that path."
Hunt said he had put his faith in a host of talented players throughout the season.
"We've probably used something like 20 players, so that means we've got a bunch of guys right through our squad who have contributed significant performances through the year and people have put their hand up at certain times.
"We've batted really well on the first innings as a rule and we've got our bowling points, so we're bowling sides out. I've always said, if we could bat well and get our batting bonus points and do well there . . . that's where we let ourselves down last year.
"You can't score 200 in a first innings and expect to be dominant, so we ended up posting some big scores and putting some pressure back on the opposition."
He said it gave him confidence for the future. "We've got a great bunch of lads and we're moving in a good direction. We've developed some good young players and the senior players are creating an environment that's leading to this success."