Wizards batsman Rob Nicol ready to cast spell

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 10/01/2014

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Rob Nicol is ready to fire and, when he does, the Canterbury Wizards could really take a team apart.

That's the feeling of one of his teammates, Dean Brownlie, who, alongside Nicol and the rest of the unchanged Canterbury squad, takes on Wellington at Hagley Oval today in the penultimate round of the domestic Twenty20 cricket competition.

Despite four of the side's eight matches being abandoned because of rain and two early losses, the Wizards can still make the playoffs for the top three teams in the competition, but need to beat Wellington today and Northern Districts on Sunday.

Brownlie said the side is confident after winning its last two completed games. A big part of that is the fact no player has really fired - yet they're still playing handily.

In four completed matches, no Canterbury batsman has scored a half century, and no bowler taken more than seven wickets in total. Yet they sit just one win out of the playoff spots courtesy of the tightness of the competition.

"The individuals still want to score big runs and take big bags of wickets, but the good thing is we're not relying on one or two to win games," Brownlie said.

"We've got good strength throughout the side, we've got no injuries, no players away with the Black Caps and we're not carrying anyone."

Canterbury also has Nicol, who has the match-winning ability few in the world possess, Brownlie said.

"For the last couple of years we've had the approach of wanting to play with no fear. Rob's the key to that, he generally dictates how we play. If he gets off to a flyer then we go well. He's massive to our team. Most teams want an X-factor player, he's ours and can win a game in 10 overs."

Nicol has scored 52 runs in the four completed matches and struggled early in the four-day competition with scores of 0, 0, 0, 2, 1 and 87. But in his brief 15 against Auckland last Sunday, he looked back to his dominant, comfortable best and Brownlie suggested a big score was around the corner.

"He's struggled and he'd be the first to acknowledge that, but he's working hard, and hopefully in these next couple of matches he can get us off to a real flyer and put some pressure on the bowlers.

"If we can get through to the top three, then the final, we're only one match away from the Champions League; that's a pretty big motivator."

Canterbury have named the same 12 for their match against Wellington and Brad Cachopa is likely to play 12th man again.

Meanwhile, the Canterbury Magicians women's side are in must-win mode this weekend. With Rachel Candy out with a broken thumb, the Magicians play the Otago Sparks today and tomorrow in 50-over matches and on Sunday in a T20 game ahead of the Volts-Stags men's game.

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The Magicians, fourth in the 50-over competition, need two wins this weekend to keep them in with a chance of making the competition'sfinal for the third time in four years.

The defending 50-over champions sit first equal in the T20 competition, but coach Brendon Donkers said they needed to keep their momentum up in that competition with another win on Sunday.

- Canterbury

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