Canterbury Wizards' backup plan pays off

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 17/12/2012

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The Canterbury Wizards' new counter-attacking game plan got a tough road test against Auckland yesterday and passed with flying colours.

In the side's final Plunket Shield match before the whites are replaced by the coloured kit, Canterbury were reeling at lunch on day one.

Having won the toss and chosen to bat on the Eden Park No 2 wicket, first-time captain Tom Latham surely felt sheepish about his decision as his side limped to lunch at 79-5.

The pitch hadn't done a lot, the Auckland bowlers had bowled a tidy line and, as coach Gary Stead said: "We just knicked a few."

Latham was trapped lbw by Chris Martin, while the other pre-lunch wickets were all caught by the wicketkeeper or in the slips.

After lunch, however, Canterbury pounced. They lost five wickets in the 32 overs before the break but only three more in the next 65.

Dean Brownlie was a rock, facing 191 balls for his 71, but the stars were the counter-attacking lower-middle order.

For some time now Canterbury have experimented with using a more attacking mindset down the order. Play some shots, make the bowlers think about their job and try something different all while getting the scoreboard moving.

Todd Astle faced 58 balls as he racked up his fourth consecutive half-century for the Wizards this season, while English import Gareth Andrew earned every penny of his pay packet with an innings-saving 126 not out.

The 28-year-old made his intentions clear early, hitting his second ball back over Bruce Martin's head and on to the roof of the stand.

His maiden first-class century came off 127 balls and he sped up from there. He hit 14 fours and six sixes in his three-hour stay and will resume this morning with No 10 Willie Lonsdale (3no).

"It was exactly what we needed and he just batted well," Stead said of Andrew's knock. "It was very smart.

"He didn't try and over-hit it." Stead said that at 79-5, the Wizards knew they were unlikely to bat through the day, so to do that and to reach stumps at a competitive 327-8 was "definitely a big confidence builder".

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