Ronnie Hira keen to stay step ahead of rivals

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 30/11/2012
Ronnie Hira
MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ
JUMPING FOR JOY: Ronnie Hira in action for the Black Caps.

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Ronnie Hira says it is vital he continues to improve in Twenty20 cricket despite being the domestic T20 competition's best bowler last year.

Hira, 25, plays his first game for Canterbury tonight when the Wizards face the competition-leading Northern Knights in Hamilton.

Hira's form last season in a championship-winning Auckland Aces side won the left-armer inclusion in the Black Caps but he's wise enough to know he's now a marked man.

"I have to keep improving, definitely," he said.

"Teams will be scouting me more now, so I have to stay ahead and make sure I'm right on top of my game."

Hira was not only the highest wicket-taker in last year's competition but also had a superb economy rate of just 5.85.

His inclusion in the Canterbury lineup - along with the signing of speedster Dirk Nannes and the return of Black Caps Andrew Ellis and Tom Latham - make the Wizards far more competitive than they were in their first T20 game three weeks ago when Jesse Ryder put them to the sword.

Hira is as excited about finally being able to play a rep game as he was about his first match in red and black.

His last completed match was nearly six weeks ago for an Auckland side which exceeded expectations at the Champions League.

"It's just great to finally get out and play," he said. "I spent time on the bench for the Black Caps . . . and now I just want to play."

Meanwhile, the Knights have received two lots of bad news.

Daniel Vettori's return in tonight's match has been postponed on the orders of New Zealand Cricket's medical staff. The 33-year-old all-rounder is now due back in a fortnight.

And English import James Foster, who played a big part in the Knights' two T20 wins, will also be absent. Foster flew back to England this week due to a family illness.

Hira said the Wizards were aware of the change to the Knights' lineup but wouldn't take anything for granted.

"They're still a good side with good players but we're focusing more on ourselves and what we have to do," he said.

Canterbury: Peter Fulton (c), Gareth Andrew, Dean Brownlie, Brad Cachopa, Andrew Ellis, Ronnie Hira, Tim Johnston, Tom Latham, Ryan McCone, Dirk Nannes, Logan Van Beek, Shanan Stewart, George Worker.

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