The Central Stags are the easybeats of this season's Twenty20 cricket competition, without a win after seven games.
That, there's no doubt about. They've flopped in three games in the past week at New Plymouth's Pukekura Park, with the Otago Volts the latest to cash in on the Stags' poor form.
The Volts were calculated rather than super-charged as they ran down the Stags' total of 147-9, cruising home with 15 balls to spare.
The win lifted the Volts to a share of the lead with the Wellington Firebirds in the six-team competition.
The Volts finished on 148-3 with their top order batsmen doing the job which was in stark contrast to the Stags' top order who once again collapsed with the home side reeling at 56-5 when Kruger van Wyk went cheaply.
Local Will Young was surprisingly left out of the playing XI, with Stags' coach Heinrich Malan justifying the selection by saying it was because he wanted to play another seamer.
Fair call, as the extra seamer was Adam Milne who had been released by the Black Caps.
But it did trigger the question of why English imports - allrounders Josh Cobb and Peter Trego - were playing as batsmen only.
Cobb's miserable run at the park continued with the bat - he's had scores of one followed by two golden ducks.
If he was a basketballer playing in the national league, he would be on a plane home today.
Trego too hasn't delivered with the consistency required of an opening batsman. One off four balls was his return yesterday.
Both have struggled with the ball, hence neither being given an over against the Volts. Cobb conceded 24 off one over earlier in the week, while Trego was belted for 50.
Malan defended the selection of an extra seamer ahead of retaining Young in the starting XI.
"We wanted to play an extra seamer with Trego playing as a batsman. Both our imports are struggling . . . Trego with his bowling and Cobb with his batting. Unfortunately, they haven't fired on all cylinders," said Malan.
"Things aren't going our way. We just have to keep on going. We're in the trenches. As Winston Churchill said, if you're going through hell, keep going."
Malan admitted it was frustrating.
"Little things aren't going our way. Batting-wise we're struggling. We have to improve. We're all competitive, we play the game to win."
It wasn't only the openers who failed to deliver for the Stags yesterday.
Jamie How (12), Carl Cachopa (14) and van Wyk (10) all got starts, but didn't push on and it was left to captain Kieran Noema-Barnett (52 including four sixes) and Doug Bracewell (35 including three sixes) to lift the Stags out of the mire.
But 147-9 was never going to be enough.
Volts' opener Hamish Rutherford came up with 29 and Aaron Redmond scored 32 batting at No 3. The Volts brought up their 100 in 12 overs, with a run a ball required from there on in it was always going to be a cakewalk for the visitors.
Ryan ten Doeschate (50 not out) and Derek de Boorder (31no) carried the side home with an unbeaten stand of 72.
It's going to take a major turnaround for the Stags to conjure up a win against the Canterbury Wizards tomorrow. And it will equally take as much effort to drag supporters back to the park.
COMPETITION POINTS Current points in the Twenty20 cricket competition are: Wellington Firebirds 20, Otago Volts 20, Auckland Aces 16, Northern Knights 16, Canterbury Wizards 14, Central Stags 2.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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