Smith's return will bolster Southland bowling stocks
Craig Smith is confident his body is ready to go and he is looking forward to a return to the Southland Hawke Cup setup this weekend.
The former Otago Volts left-armer's 2011-12 campaign was cut short because of a recurrence of a stress fracture in his back.
Barring a social game while visiting a mate in Shanghai, China, Smith had not played since March last year until he made his comeback to Southland club cricket last weekend.
He got through six overs playing for Southland Boys' High School against Invercargill-Old Boys before turning out on Sunday for the Southland XI and getting through a further eight overs against a visiting club team from New Delhi.
"It felt all right in the weekend [when] I got about 14 overs under the belt.
"There was a bit of general stiffness but nothing that wouldn't happen normally from the first game of the season," he said.
The Southland Boys' High School teacher took an opportunity to travel and has been overseas since July before returning late last year.
Smith's return will bolster the bowling stocks this weekend.
Hamish O'Brien is also returning after missing Southland's previous Hawke Cup fixture against South Canterbury in Timaru.
O'Brien has been busy of late playing for Otago in the national under-19 tournament and has also been included in an Otago A team which is playing Tasmania in Dunedin this week.
Smith and O'Brien replace James Wadworth and Steve Waddell in the 12 who had a first-innings win over South Canterbury.
Smith - who played 11 first-class games, 16 one-day games and three Twenty20 games for Otago - said the 2012-13 southern zone Hawke Cup competition was tight and this weekend's showdown with North Otago was important.
North Otago were beaten outright by South Canterbury in their opening game but last weekend grabbed an outright win over Otago Country.
The winner of the five-team southern-zone section, which includes Southland, Otago Country, North Otago, Mid Canterbury and South Canterbury, will progress to challenge for the Hawke Cup against holders Bay of Plenty from March 8 to 10. Bay of Plenty won the Hawke Cup by beating Hamilton last weekend.
Hamilton batted first and made 255 before Bay of Plenty went about amassing 701 to claim a first-innings victory and the cup.
Southland: Jason Domigan (c) (Invercargill-Old Boys), Mark Beer (Metro Tigers), Hamish Cooke (Metro Tigers), Ryan Duffy (Metro Tigers), Shaun Fitzgibbon (Marist), Michael Grattan (Albion), Jonathan Hodson (Invercargill-Old Boys), Ryan Meyer (Invercargill-Old Boys), Hamish O'Brien (Metro Tigers), Rhuebyn Prattley (Albion), Craig Smith (SBHS), Simon Wadworth (Invercargill-Old Boys).