Canterbury Wizards attack maybe vulnerable
The last time Brent Findlay played first-class cricket for Canterbury, current coach Gary Stead opened the batting and both Chris Harris and Craig McMillan were still in the side.
That was seven years ago.
Findlay, now 27 and in his first season back in Christchurch after moving to Auckland, joins the Wizards' squad because of an injury crisis.
Eleven players are unavailable for Canterbury's sixth-round Plunket Shield clash with Central Districts in Napier starting on Thursday - eight of them frontline bowlers.
Willie Lonsdale (glandular fever), Ed Nuttall (back complaint and possible stress fracture), Logan van Beek (still monitoring a long-term injury that stops him bowling long spells), Gareth Andrew (contract finished and returned to Britain), Ben McCord (groin) and Will Williams (heel) are all unavailable.
McCord is due back "soon" but Lonsdale and Nuttall could both be out for the season.
Matt Henry and Hamish Bennett are improving and both played club cricket at the weekend, but Stead said mid-February was still the aim for their return.
While the bowling stocks were ravaged by injury, there was no temptation to rush back Bennett or Henry, Stead said.
"We have to look at the long term and it's definitely not worth risking them."
Both are finding form in club cricket, though aren't bowling enough overs to be able to withstand the rigours of four-day cricket.
Bennett took 4-13 from eight overs for Riccarton on Saturday against Henry's Marist-Harewood side, while Henry replied with 2-10 from nine overs.
Stead is also still without the services of Black Caps Ronnie Hira and Rob Nicol.
Canterbury do welcome back captain Peter Fulton and have batting firepower in internationals Dean Brownlie, Tom Latham, Andrew Ellis and Todd Astle in the middle order, though they are also without wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Cachopa.
Cachopa has nursed a shoulder complaint most of the season and now needs rest.
Stead said he was unlikely to play the Wizards next four-day match, starting next Thursday in Wellington, either.
Latham will take the gloves.
Findlay is likely to play as a fourth seamer this week and is coming off a strong A tournament with the ball where he took seven wickets at 16.14.
It might be the worst game of the season to be light on bowlers for Canterbury.
The McLean Park deck is renowned for being a batsmen's paradise and, as well as first-class run-machines Jamie How and Mathew Sinclair to worry about, CD have one of the competition's form batsmen in Craig Cachopa.
But what makes this match the most anticipated of the season is the return of dumped Black Caps skipper Ross Taylor.
At McLean Park, he averages 56.39.
Peter Fulton (c), Todd Astle, Dean Brownlie, Andrew Ellis, Brent Findlay, Tim Johnston, Tom Latham, Ryan McCone, Matt McEwan, Henry Nicholls, Shanan Stewart, George Worker. Points (games played in brackets): Central Districts 74 (6), Otago 57 (6), Auckland 51 (5), Wellington 47 (5), Canterbury 39 (5), Northern Districts 35 (5).
- © Fairfax NZ News
Is cricket still NZ's top summer sport?Related story: Rain can't save Black Caps from big defeat