Canterbury lose their magic at season's end

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 05/04/2014
Canterbury Wizards
Photosport

MAGIC RUNS OUT: Canterbury Wizards fall at the end, losing to both the Knights and then the Firebirds in the playoffs for a berth in the final of the domestic one-day cricket competition.

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It's the cricket season that nearly was.

It was nearly brilliant, nearly the most successful in the Canterbury Cricket Association's history and it was nearly the side's first multiple title-winning one since 2005-2006. But it wasn't.

Canterbury won the Plunket Shield and finished third in the one-day and Twenty20 competitions.

It would be considered a pleasing return by most sides and, at the start of the summer, Canterbury would have probably taken it.

But this week's pair of semifinal losses have taken a couple of layers of gloss off what was still a shiny season.

Instead of celebrating, the Wizards will pack their gear away for the winter thinking about what could have been and how two uncharacteristically poor batting displays - and a couple of untimely injuries - put paid to 2013-2014 ending on a high.

Yet it was a good season and Canterbury's best for some time.

They deserved their Plunket Shield victory, winning five matches outright and playing the best team cricket.

Only Tom Latham really stood out as an individual, scoring two double centuries and was comfortably the competition's leading batsman with 948 runs at 79.00. On the back of his 261 and 241no, Latham scored more than 100 runs more than any other batsmen in the competition and played three fewer games than most.

Todd Astle's match figures of 14-234 in the final game against CD, was also a huge highlight.

Andrew Ellis had his best season, which was highlighted by his two Plunket Shield centuries as stand-in captain, while the bowling unit firstly enjoyed being largely injury free, then suffered late as Matt Henry and Hamish Bennett were both struck down.

Peter Fulton's T20 batting was also impressive and the side, lacking hired stars, played above themselves in the shortest form.

Canterbury's option not to use an official import worked, though hired-gun Simon Keen was a bit of a flop through injury and form and his 12th contract spot should definitely go to a home-grown player next season.

The younger players in the Wizards squad didn't develop into mid-level lieutenants as well as they should have though Logan van Beek and later Ryan McCone did make considerable strides.

Instead of imports, Canterbury spent a chunk of their budget on an improved coaching pool. It looks like it worked with the Canterbury A and Under-19 teams both winning their competitions but depth will be the best yardstick for how well that experiment is working over the next couple of years.

The top players are good and perform as such, now it's up to the players near the other end of the contract list to step up if the side is to push for more silverware.

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