Battle of imports in clash of Twenty 20 leaders

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 08/01/2014

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There will be a game within a game as Wellington and Otago square off in a top-of-the-table Twenty20 clash at Dunedin's University Oval today.

Crucial to both teams' chances are imports Graham Napier (Wellington) and Ryan ten Doeschate (Otago), who are team-mates at English county Essex.

The star all-rounders are also seasoned campaigners of the New Zealand competition yet for various reasons have only played against each other once, more than a decade ago.

"I know his game very well, having played with Ryan for about 10 years," said Napier, who celebrated his 34th birthday on Monday.

"He's a world traveller of Twenty20; a great performer and a danger man. We need to work out how to get him out early.

"He's also dangerous with the ball so he's certainly a key man. It'll be good to play against him and hopefully get the better of him."

The pair have sparred plenty of times in the Essex nets over the years but Napier was keeping his cards close to his chest.

"He's a tough one to bowl to. I've got my ideas on how to get him out so hopefully I'll get a crack at him."

Both men have vast T20 experience and were influential in their team's last-round victories.

Napier took 3-18 in his four overs as Wellington beat Northern Districts by 21 runs in Mt Maunganui, while ten Doeschate struck an unbeaten 50 in Otago's seven-wicket stroll over Central Districts in New Plymouth.

"It was pleasing and hats off to Luke Woodcock who bowled really well [1-19 from four] and Steve Murdoch, who played a great innings [57]," Napier said.

"The standard is very good here and the pitches are a lot better, more consistent in bounce and pace. In England they're lower and slower."

Wellington were forced to train indoors yesterday as heavy rain fell in Dunedin

It has been a theme of the New Zealand T20 season, and winless CDs' game against Canterbury was also washed out in New Plymouth yesterday.

"We've spent so much time on the sidelines, we can't wait to get a game in," Napier said. "When we have got out there, we've been in brilliant form."

Defending champions Otago lose the services of all-rounder Jimmy Neesham, who has re-joined the Black Caps for today's final one-day international in Hamilton.

Wellington have just one further game in the round-robin, against Canterbury, and a win today would ensure a spot in the top-three finals.

In today's other game, Auckland host Northern Districts at Eden Park Outer Oval.

Australian import Dan Harris returns to the ND side.

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