Tim Southee versus Jesse Ryder probably isn't going to be on a charity boxing card any time soon but it promises the most explosive head-to-head match-up when Wellington host Northern Districts over the next four days.
Left out of the New Zealand Twenty20 squad to tour South Africa, due to the imminent arrival of his first child, Southee is one of four Black Caps test players who will turn out at Karori Park for the Knights.
Hostile and effective in his past three tests for New Zealand, Southee will no doubt be the bowler designated to get at Ryder.
The left-handed Ryder has so far scored 549 runs at 91.50 in the Plunket Shield, propelling Wellington to two wins in the process.
None of which is news to ND coach Grant Bradburn, who believes he has come up with a cunning strategy to thwart Ryder.
"Yes we have," Bradburn said, following his team's training session at Karori yesterday.
"We've spoken about him in our team meeting this morning, as well as the others, because we're certainly not taking our eye off the rest of their lineup. We're well aware they're a formidable side and that they're playing good cricket.
"Besides Jesse, who's clearly in good form and a pillar for them, they've got some very good players. But we have spoken specifically about him today and we're all in agreement that we've got a good plan to bring to the table when Jesse comes to the wicket," Bradburn said.
Not only has Ryder been prolific, but most of his 549 runs have come at a strike rate in excess of 100. At that kind of speed, teams suddenly find the game has been taken away from them in a session or two.
"Absolutely, when he's at the wicket he's really advanced the game for Wellington. Our master plan is not to have him at the wicket for too long," said Bradburn.
ND are last on the Plunket Shield ladder, with 15 points.
But with Southee, Daniel Flynn, Kane Williamson and BJ Watling all available this week, ND will be a more daunting proposition than the points suggest.
Bradburn said poor first innings' with the bat had been his team's biggest problem and the addition of Flynn, Williamson and Watling should go some way to solving that.
He's also hopeful his Black Caps can re-ignite ND's title defence.
"Last year we won the Plunket Shield with only four victories, and there's six games to go, and we feel that when we get on a momentum swing, we'll be as competitive as any side."
Meanwhile, Plunket Shield leaders Central Districts have made one change to their 12 who lost to Wellington by seven wickets.
Manawatu quick bowler Bevan Small comes in for Whanganui wicketkeeper-batsman Ben Smith, having satisfied the CD selectors he's fit enough for this week's clash with Otago in Dunedin.
Small is due to have hip surgery shortly but, in the meantime, his doctors have told him he won't worsen the injury by playing.
Fellow quick bowler Adam Milne will fly to Dunedin today, where he'll do some light bowling under the gaze of assistant coach Lance Hamilton. Milne was ruled out of the Black Caps' Twenty20 matches against South Africa, with an Achilles problem, but should be fit to play when Wellington host CD in a Boxing Day T20 clash.
All-rounder Kieran Noema-Barnett and leggie Tarun Nethula are also expected to make their returns from injury then too.
HOW THEY LINE UP
What: Plunket Shield cricket
Who: Wellington v Northern Districts
Where and when: Karori Park from 10.30am today
Wellington: Josh Brodie, Michael Papps, Stephen Murdoch (c), Jesse Ryder, Grant Elliott, Luke Woodcock, Luke Ronchi, Chris Woakes, Scott Kuggeleijn, Jeetan Patel, Dane Hutchinson, Michael Pollard, Harry Boam
Northern Districts: Brad Wilson (c), Graeme Aldridge, Brent Arnel, James Baker, Daniel Flynn, James Marshall, Daryl Mitchell, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson, Joseph Yovich
- The Dominion Post
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