There's bad, and then there's the way the Central Districts Stags played today.
They were dreadful. A 64-run loss to an impressive Canterbury Wizards side at New Plymouth's Pukekura Park all but ended their playoff hopes in the Ford Trophy one-day cricket competition.
It was a shoddy performance in front of just a couple of hundred spectators dotted around the ground's terraces.
Light misty rain from early morning, which cleared early afternoon, delayed the start until 3pm, with the 50 overs a side match reduced to a 30 overs hit-out.
Things started well for the Stags, who won the toss and put the visitors in and had them reeling at 30-3 after six overs.
With George Worker, Tom Latham and Dean Brownlie all back in the hutch things were looking good. But it didn't last long.
A classy knock from No 3 Rob Nicol, who top scored with 73 off 71 balls, put Canterbury back on track. It was a good run out that saw him removed with Marty Kain hitting the stumps with a side-on throw.
Nicol, along with valuable contributions from Peter Fulton (32) and Andrew Ellis (41), took the score through to 188-7 after 27.5 overs before the lower order lifted them to 216-8 by the end of the innings.
The Stags were guilty of poor fielding including two catching chances being put down – one from Andrew Mathieson, who made a meal of a high one fielding backward of square leg – while some of the bowling late in the innings was wayward.
Central started their run chase poorly, danger man Jamie How caught at third man on three after top edging a Ryan McCone delivery.
Ben Smith stuck around for a while hitting 31 runs off 29 balls and Dane Cleaver 25 off 22.
But once they and others had gone cheaply the game was as good as over at 92-6 with 15 overs left.
Central were eventually bundled out for 152 in 26.3 overs.
The morose look on the faces of the Stags as they gathered to shake hands with the victors said it all. Back-to-back losses after losing badly to the Northern Knights at the same venue three days earlier has reduced their playoff hopes to minimal.
Stags coach Heinrich Malan couldn't hide his disappointment after the match.
"We didn't bowl well and I think around 170 was par for what we would have been happy to be chasing," he said. "Our execution was poor. We've been working on bowling at the death and unfortunately that didn't come off today.
"In this one game we have pretty well shown what we have done during this whole campaign.
"We either play really good or really poorly. At 30-3 really good, then we let it slip and we pull it back again and let it slip at the end again."
The Stags' top-order batting is a major concern.
"The top order just hasn't fired again and it's becoming contagious now. Every time we come out to bat there's more and more pressure because in the previous innings we haven't performed."
Asked if the two losses would see changes to the makeup of the team for the remaining two matches in the competition against the Wellington Firebirds and the Otago Volts, Malan was non-committal.
"Yes and no," he said. "We've invested so much in the 13 guys now and we've got a couple of injured players which doesn't help.
"We've got to make sure the young players we have, we've got to make sure we give them the confidence now because by leaving them out is not going to help us move forward when we're talking about next season.
"At the end of the line, they've got to feel the brunt of being dropped. But I still feel it's more important for us to build their confidence and build them into the roles we want them to play."
Canterbury took away five competition points from the game having bowled the Stags out for fewer than 170 runs.
Wizards captain Peter Fulton was happy his side had managed to fight their way out of trouble after losing three cheap wickets.
"We're lucky Rob [Nicol] and Andrew Ellis batted well and Todd Astle finished off at the end with a little cameo, which got us up to what I felt was a pretty reasonable score."
- Taranaki Daily News
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