Central Districts wary of Volts' final charge
Central Districts cricket coach Alan Hunt will have one wary eye on the Basin Reserve this week as his team prepares for its final Plunket Shield match against the Northern Knights, starting tomorrow at Nelson's Saxton Oval.
Central are nine points clear of the pack and just one game away from securing this season's four-day championship title. The second-placed Otago Volts are the only other side capable of snatching the title from them, with Hunt hoping for some late assistance from the Wellington Firebirds when they host Otago at the Basin.
Central enter the final round with the luxury of controlling their own fate, with their impressive record of six wins from nine matches, including the last three on the trot, giving plenty of momentum.
While Hunt is aware that Otago probably need a win, he's also aware of the need for his side to be on their game against a threatening Northern side.
"Yeah, [Otago have] got to win but I guess we've just got to worry about what we're doing and try and continue the momentum we've got and try and improve on our last game, because we certainly weren't at our best [against Canterbury]," Hunt said.
Central completed a four-wicket win over the Canterbury Wizards in Rangiora on Saturday although there was much about the performance, particularly the batting, that left Hunt demanding improvement.
"Our bowlers certainly stood up well but our batting was a little bit lacking in some areas, so we'll certainly address that. So I guess that we just worry about what we're up to . . . if we can take care of business here in Nelson, then we don't need to worry about the Basin."
Hunt was pleased with his team's ability to adapt to different situations in compiling their winning record.
"We've won six from nine so it's a good strike rate and we've won in all sorts of different ways as well, so it's not like we've got a pattern. We've come from behind and obviously [also] led from the front. It's just a matter of trying to do the same.
"Northern have won their last two so they're going to be in pretty good heart and I guess they'll be trying to upset the applecart a little bit and hopefully Wellington can put a performance together [against Otago] because they're overdue really, aren't they, to put something consistent together."
There are two changes to the Central squad. Roald Badenhorst, who was 12th man in Rangiora, has returned home, with batsman Will Young and Marlborough pace bowler Ben Wheeler added to the side. Young has recovered from a broken finger and Wheeler from a side strain.
And at least Central won't have Northern's international bowler Tim Southee to worry about over the next four days after Southee was called into the Black Caps one-day squad as cover for the injured Mitchell McLenaghan. Southee's been replaced in the Knights' lineup by Jono Boult, with former Auckland A and New Zealand under-19 wicketkeeper Cameron Fletcher set to make his first class debut as a replacement for Englishman Adam Wheater who has returned home.
Play is scheduled to start tomorrow at Saxton Oval at 10.30am.
CENTRAL DISTRICTS: Jeet Raval, Jamie How, Carl Cachopa, Mathew Sinclair, Kieran Noema-Barnett (captain), Kruger van Wyk, Doug Bracewell, Tarun Nethula, Ajaz Patel, Andrew Lamb, Andrew Mathieson, Ben Wheeler, Will Young.
NORTHERN KNIGHTS: Brad Wilson (captain), Daniel Flynn, Joseph Yovich, James Marshall, Daryl Mitchell, Corey Anderson, Cameron Fletcher, Graeme Aldridge, Ish Sodhi, Brent Arnel, Jono Boult, Anurag Verma.
The Nelson Mail