Mark Houghton jumps at opportunity

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 05:00 26/11/2012

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When you're behind two international spinners in a province's pecking order, you either shift elsewhere or wait for fate to throw you an opportunity.

So when Luke Woodcock told his good mate Mark Houghton he was soon to become a father, the latter offered congratulations then "did some maths".

Sure enough, Wellington's Plunket Shield match against Auckland, starting today, clashes with Wednesday's due date. Woodcock will remain home, waiting for the big arrival, while fellow left-arm spinner Houghton is in Auckland, hoping for his first first-class match since November, 2010. "I enjoy playing club cricket and if you do well, the consequences are playing for Wellington," Houghton said. "I've got [Woodcock and Jeetan Patel] in front of me, so I'm the benefactor of other people's circumstances."

The 28-year-old, who has 10 first-class games and 11 one-dayers to his name, was summoned to the Firebirds' 12 on Thursday, before his century and three-wicket haul for Taita at the weekend.

He had considered moving elsewhere for better cricketing fortune but his loyalty to the province and an enjoyable job teaching English at Wellington College had him stay put.

Houghton had not been given an indication of whether he would play but as the only spinner he would be a decent chance of gracing Eden Park No 2, with Scott Kuggeleijn and Dane Hutchinson probably contesting for 12th man duties. The Firebirds trained at the venue yesterday and the coaching staff felt the pitch would be an excellent, Basin Reserve-type surface with pace and bounce.

That doesn't augur too well for Houghton but he was happy to build on his diet of limited-overs cricket in which he has bowled 25 overs this season.

"I remember James Franklin scoring a double century [at Eden Park No 2], as well as Tim McIntosh. Traditionally it's been quite flat and the dimensions of the ground are quite small."

Wellington will relish a surface with something for the quicker bowlers after a win and a loss on lifeless pitches in Napier and Rangiora. English all-rounder Chris Woakes' debut will be watched with interest, replacing Andy McKay (side strain), while Mark Gillespie (sore neck) trained yesterday and is expected to play.

The match between Auckland (fourth on 22 points) and Wellington (fifth on 19) completes round three, and an outright to either team will vault them to second behind Central Districts.

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- The Dominion Post

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