Smith makes best of chances

TONY BIRD
Last updated 05:00 12/01/2013

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After only a handful of games, Ben Smith finds himself in the thick of the action wielding his bat and wearing the gloves for the Central Districts Stags cricket team.

And tomorrow, the wicketkeeper batsman will again be behind the stumps when the Stags take on the Otago Volts at New Plymouth's Pukekura Park in a Twenty20 match.

Drafted into the injury-hit HRV Cup side after the Twenty20 competition had started, the former Wanganui Collegiate first XI rep has seized any opportunities that have come his way.

Smith, who turned 22 this week, was one of the stars for the Stags in their seven-wicket victory over the Auckland Aces at the park on Wednesday night.

Batting at No 4 and playing only his fifth Twenty20 game for the Stags, the right hand batsman celebrated his birthday by belting a career-best 59 not out in the shortened version of the game, including eight fours and one six off 31 balls.

His whirlwind unbeaten innings helped his side to their second win in the competition.

After the match Smith said he went out to enjoy himself.

"Earlier we had a talk and thought we'd have a bit of fun.

"Obviously we've had a bit of a shocker in the HRV competition (two wins from seven matches so far) and we wanted to look to disrupt the rest of the teams we play."

With the asking rate just over 10 with five overs left and Smith batting with Stags' senior statesman Mathew Sinclair, CD fans could have been excused for feeling a win for their side was out of reach.

But Smith said the run chase was on track at the three-quarter stage. "Especially out here on Pukekura Park. I think you can score at 12 an over in the last five overs here.

"It's one of those decks that if you score boundaries later in the innings, you're going to win games, so no, we were confident of doing the job."

Last year, Smith decided to drop the gloves to concentrate on his batting when he was called into the Stags.

This season with Kruger van Wyk away with the Black Caps early in the season, Smith picked up the gloves again as a second string to his bow.

"With Kruger suffering a broken finger there are plenty of opportunities there at the moment," he said. Smith is in his first season as a contracted player with CD and lives life on the run around the lower North Island in the cricket season.

The business studies student plays his district association cricket for Whanganui, but heads to the east coast to play his club cricket.

He plays for the Central Hawke's Bay premier team and trains with the Stags squad at CD headquarters in Napier.

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Stags coach Alan Hunt said at the start of the season, Smith was expected to play only a limited role in the side's 2012-13 campaign.

But all that changed due to injuries and leave.

Hunt said Smith had seized his opportunities and had done well in his new role wearing the gloves, but still has a way to go.

As for Smith's ramp shot that got him a few of his 59 runs on Wednesday, it was a case of practice paying off.

"Yep, you've got to practise it all the time."

CENTRAL DISTRICTS STAGS: Mathew Sinclair, Jamie How, Jeet Raval, Ben Smith, Kieran Noema-Barnett (capt), Carl Cachopa, Jacob Oram, Tarun Nethula, Marty Kain, Bevan Small, Karl Jarvis, Andrew Lamb.

OTAGO VOLTS: from, Derek de Boorder (c), Nick Beard, Ian Butler, Michael Bracewell, Neil Broom, Ryan ten Doeschate, Jacob Duffy, James Fuller, Jimmy Neesham, Nathan McCullum, Aaron Redmond, Iain Robertson, Hamish Rutherford. Fairfax NZ

- Fairfax Media

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