Barnett's leadership skills face new test

Likely to bat at No 5, B J Barnett's ability to read and win a game will serve him well as captain.
Likely to bat at No 5, B J Barnett's ability to read and win a game will serve him well as captain.

Nelson cricketers will lead the Central Districts charge at the seven-match Provincial A cricket tournament in Lincoln next month.

B J Barnett will captain the Central Districts Provincial A team, which also includes Greg Hay, Joe O'Connor and Connor Neynens. The team will be coached by Nelson representative coach Andrew Cavill.

Barnett captained Nelson to recent Hawke Cup victories over West Coast and Marlborough, while also winning the Cave Cup and retaining the Newman Shield this year.

Likely to bat at No 5, Barnett's ability to read and win a game earned him the CD skipper's arm-band for the five 50-over games and three Twenty20 matches, according to Cavill.

"It is an opportunity for B J to captain a team at the next level," Cavill said.

"His tactics on field are very good. He has a strong sense of what he wants out on field and does a good job of getting his bowlers to execute those plans.

"Now, addressing players at this higher level and leading from the front will be the focus for B J. There are a lot guys within the squad who have played first-class cricket, and he will have to utilise their knowledge as well."

Hay has formerly played for Central Districts in all three forms of the game. The top-order batsman is targeting a return to the Stags side for the one-day season.

Cavill said good performances by Hay batting at No 3 at Lincoln would see him on the edge of first-class selection.

"This year Haysie has a real determination that he wants to succeed and play first-class cricket again. His form has been outstanding - he is getting big scores, and the majority have been chanceless innings. If he continues to do that, the opportunity will come. And there will be a couple of trials for the CD one-day set up."

Hay has been in title-winning touch for his Waimea Toi Toi United club side. His third unbeaten century of the season decided the Nelson two-day final last Sunday.

He leads the standings in the Vonda Edwards Trophy, with 521 runs at an average of 173.66.

O'Connor was one of four Nelson players who made the CD side in 2011. The Wanderers strike bowler will be pushing for a place in the top 12 as an opening or first change bowler.

O'Connor has impressed with the bat for Wanderers in 2012, scoring his maiden club century earlier this month. Cavill said that despite having a club average a tick over 35, O'Connor was likely to bat down the order.

"That's just the reality of depth in cricket at the moment - you have to be able to hold a bat, even if you are coming in at the bottom of the over. And Joey can certainly hold a bat, but his main focus will be taking wickets."

The final squad member from Nelson is New Zealand under-19 representative Neynens. The Wanderers all-rounder is the only member of the foursome who did not play for CD Provincial A in 2011.

Neynens takes the place of Marty Kain, who earned a CD contract this year.

Neynens was a member of the New Zealand under-19 team that finished fourth at the ICC under-19 Cricket World Cup in Australia earlier this year. He scored 71 runs and took four wickets, with best figures of 3-24 against Scotland.

Cavill said the opportunity was another stepping stone for Neynens, who set selection in the Provincial A team as one of his goals for this year. He will bat at No 7 or No 8 and bowl through the middle overs.

Cavill said the selection of the four Nelsonians was the result of strong representative performances, and showed that there was a defined pathway through Nelson cricket.

The tournament starts with a 50-over match against Auckland on Wednesday, January 2. The CD Provincial A team will then play Wellington, Northern Districts, Otago and Canterbury.

The team will then play three Twenty20 games across two days at Bert Sutcliffe Oval and Lincoln Green.

The Nelson Mail