Canterbury confidence high for one-day final
New Zealand's latest cricketing hero, Peter Fulton, and fellow Black Cap Dean Brownlie return for Canterbury in tomorrow's one-day final, but it's the side's bowlers who could well star.
The quick bowling quartet of Matt Henry, Ryan McCone, Hamish Bennett and Andrew Ellis have been outstanding as a unit this season.
They've taken 55 wickets between them at an average of 20 and, on largely unhelpful away decks, outplayed most opposition attacks.
How they go tomorrow, compared with an Auckland Aces side featuring Black Caps bowlers Chris Martin, Kyle Mills and Bruce Martin, will be key.
The final - at Auckland's Eden Park Outer Oval - will be the fourth time the sides have met in the one-day competition this season, with Canterbury yet to record a win.
But their confidence is high because their well performed batting lineup welcomes back Fulton and Brownlie and their attack is on top of its game and perfectly balanced.
Henry and McCone take the new ball and have the ability to take wickets at the top and middle of an innings with seam and swing, respectively, while Bennett usually follows them up with genuine pace.
Ellis, who retains the captaincy despite Fulton's return, is the container and the self-described "gap filler".
Canterbury also have Ronnie Hira and Rob Nicol as slow bowling options and all-rounder Logan van Beek, though he and Henry Nicholls are likely to miss the playing XI.
"It's a long-term thing for the bowlers. Henners, Hamish and Raz [McCone] are still pretty young and inexperienced at this level but at this stage of their development they're doing very well, and very well as a unit," Ellis said.
"It's just a great balance with Raz being a left-armer and swinging the ball, Hamish being a genuine quick and Henners having that X-factor."
Ellis himself is almost the glue that holds the attack together and jumps in where needed.
The bowling unit as a whole help the batsmen too, by taking a bit of pressure off them.
The batsmen know their bowlers have the ability to defend a mediocre score - as they did on Wednesday against Wellington in the semifinal - and playing with more freedom has worked for the top six.
The return of Fulton and Brownlie means Ellis drops down to No 7, where he can play the innings closer role that's worked so well for the Wizards this summer.
Just as important as Canterbury's strong bowling attack and the fact seven of their probable top eight have played for New Zealand, is how Auckland go.
With Kyle Mills, Chris Martin and Bruce Martin, they have the ability to make the final very difficult for Canterbury's batsmen.
Canterbury are adamant they focus on all of Auckland's threats with the bat, but the way Colin Munro has put them to the sword the last two times they've met - scoring 151 off 107 balls and 118 off 81 - one would assume they've done plenty of work on the one-test Aucklander.
AT A GLANCE
CANTERBURY: Andrew Ellis (c), Hamish Bennett, Dean Brownlie, Peter Fulton, Matt Henry, Ronnie Hira, Tom Latham, Ryan McCone, Henry Nicholls, Rob Nicol, Logan van Beek, Shanan Stewart, George Worker
AUCKLAND: Gareth Hopkins (c), Michael Bates, Craig Cachopa, Colin de Grandhomme, Donovan Grobbelaar, Dusan Hakaraia, Anaru Kitchen, Bruce Martin, Chris Martin, Tim McIntosh, Kyle Mills, Colin Munro, Bhupinder Singh