Canterbury quartet return for domestic games
A host of capable all-rounders and the return of some wily old heads has allowed Canterbury cricket coach Gary Stead the luxury of a bit of confidence heading into the domestic one-day campaign.
The 50-over format suits the Wizards better than T20 and four-day cricket, while the motivation of rescuing a poor season will be an obvious one for Stead's side.
Canterbury have finished fifth in both completed six-team competitions, and lacked consistency and runs.
They begin their eight-match, 50-over tournament today at Hagley Oval against last year's runners-up, the Auckland Aces.
Stead said that although his team needed no extra motivation to perform well for their province, he conceded the chance of still finishing with silverware was very appealing.
"I think we've got a really balanced side with plenty of options," Stead said.
The change from white clothing to coloured coincides with the return of Brad Cachopa (injury), Rob Nicol (leave), Logan van Beek (limited bowling loads) and Andrew Ellis (international duty).
The quartet's return goes some way to helping make up for the loss of Tom Latham and Dean Brownlie who will play for the New Zealand XI against England, starting tomorrow in Queenstown.
Cachopa will open the innings with George Worker and wicketkeep while Ellis and van Beek join Ronnie Hira, Todd Astle and Nicol as genuine all-rounders.
Of the 12 players Stead named for the opening fixture, only Cachopa, captain Peter Fulton and Henry Nicholls aren't genuine bowling options.
Stead is still without new-ball bowlers Matt Henry and Hamish Bennett. Henry is expected to be back for Thursday's second-round match against Central Districts, while a return date for Bennett is still unclear.
Stead was hopeful his big quick would be back for the end of the summer and he did bowl a short spell in club cricket on Saturday.
In Henry and Bennett's absence, the Wizards have plenty of spin options.
Astle, Hira, Nicol and Worker are handy limited-overs spinners.
Having players who could win a match with both bat and ball was a plus, Stead said, but he expected the sides that adapted to the new rules - a new ball at each end and only four players allowed outside the 30m circle - would feature in the playoffs at the end of next month.
Today's game starts at 11am.
Peter Fulton (captain), Todd Astle, Brad Cachopa, Andrew Ellis, Ronnie Hira, Ryan McCone, Matt McEwan, Henry Nicholls, Rob Nicol, Shanan Stewart, Logan van Beek, George Worker.