Black Caps turning out as club cricket starts

COME IN SPINNER: Ronnie Hira played in LPW’s one-day final team last year and is likely to turn out today for the club.
DAN TOBIN/FAIRFAX NZ
COME IN SPINNER: Ronnie Hira played in LPW’s one-day final team last year and is likely to turn out today for the club.

Nine past or present Black Caps will be in action in the opening round of the premier men's competition which kicks off tomorrow.

It's a competition The Press' cricket writer MATT RICHENS expects will be one of the closest in recent years.

Canterbury and New Zealand cricketers will make a rare appearance tomorrow when Christchurch's premier club competition kicks off and some top players are pitted against each other.

Hamish Bennett (Riccarton) could be bowling to Neil Broom (East Shirley), Matt Henry (Marist Harewood) sending them down to good mate Tom Latham (Burnside), while Ronnie Hira and Andrew Ellis (Lancaster Park Woolston) will be taking on Todd Astle (Old Boys Collegians).

Add to that, old heads Chris Harris (Sydenham) and David Sewell (Burnside) are still featuring prominently with the ball.

Defending two-day champions St Albans will no doubt be tough to beat while East Shirley could prove dark horses in all three formats despite losing experienced quartet Tim Papps, Craig Stevens, DJ Lyons and Gareth Powell, all to retirement.

Old Boys Collegians are always thereabouts but will again have big changes from week to week with four contracted players, while Lancaster Park Woolston have the quality to win silverware.

Burnside West University, Marist Harewood, Riccarton and Sydenham all have the ability - and personnel - to beat anyone on their day though consistency will be key for them.

Burnside West University

Gains: None. Losses: George Worker (Central Districts). Contracted players: Tom Latham. Captain: Sam Noster.

Last year's two-day: 5th. Last year's one-day: 8th. Last year's T20: 5th=.

BWU will put out a similar team to last year, though have lost George Worker.

They'll still be led with the ball by the experienced David Sewell and Scott Inglis while new captain Sam Noster said the entire squad had developed well.

There was ''more hunger and belief'', Noster said, and the new skipper had every right to be more confident after a hard-working pre-season.

Left-arm chinaman bowler Blake Coburn has improved hugely and will have a big impact, Noster predicted. ''And it's about time we won a competition,'' he added. ''It's well overdue.''

East Christchurch Shirley

Gains: Neil Broom (Otago), Tim Muir (Otago A), Nathan McNicol (South Canterbury, Lachlan Taylor (Australia), Brad Wright (Australia). Losses: Tim Papps, DJ Lyons, Craig Stevens, Gareth Powell (all retired). Contracted players: Tim Johnston, Neil Broom. Captain: Darren Broom.

Last year's two-day: Last. Last year's one-day: Champions. Last year's T20: 5th=.

The losses of the experienced quartet, including Tim Papps could mean the death knell for Easts, but they've recruited well.

Neil Broom returns to the club now captained by younger brother Darren.

Hard-hitting leg-spinning all-rounder Tim Muir is also back and the club have picked up two handy Australian all-rounders and sharp left-armer Nathan McNicol.

New Zealand under-19 players Leo Carter and Ken McClure are expected to feature while Tim Johnston will no doubt contribute with bat and ball.

Coach Nev Lyons, in his 17th year in the job, has taken on more than able lieutenants in club stalwarts Ryan Burson and Scott Pawson as his specialist coaches.

Lancaster Park Woolston

Gains: Theo van Woerkom (OBC), Mitchell Ross (Nelson). Losses: None. Contracted players: Andrew Ellis, Ryan McCone, Ronnie Hira. Captain: Michael Davidson.

Last year's two-day: 4th. Last year's one-day: Runners-up. Last year's T20: 3rd=.

The LPW squad seems to look better each year and this summer will have more players pushing for rep squads.

Theo van Woerkom has transferred from OBC and Nelson seamer Mitchell Ross has joined the club.

Player coach Keryn Ambler said the club's main target was to win the one-day competition after being the bridesmaid last season. With the squad they have there's no reason Park won't push for titles in all three formats.

Their strong seam attack is a major plus and with contracted players Andrew Ellis, Ryan McCone and Ronnie Hira available, they're one of the best sides on paper. Promising batsman Michael Davidson takes over the captaincy.

Marist Harewood

Gains: Harshal Vyas (Auckland), Richard Golbourn (UK), Shaun Stagg (Ashburton). Losses: Jack Clark (back to UK). Contracted players: Matt Henry. Captain: Matt Winter.

Last year's two-day: 7th. Last year's one-day: 7th. Last year's T20: Runners-up.

Last year's return was a disappointing one for Marist-Harewood and they're desperate to move up.

Player coach Willie Lonsdale is confident they can do it and by adding two handy batting all-rounders - Harshal Vyas from the Auckland under-19 team and UK pro Richard Golbourn - as well as adding to their bowling stocks by bringing in Ashburton's Shaun Stagg.

''We've got a few guys with that extra year's experience and we've got the right balance now,'' Lonsdale said.

New skipper Matt Winter will have plenty of bowling options including a fully-fit Lonsdale while one-time Black Cap Matt Henry will lead the attack tomorrow.

They too are a potential dark horse, but will need consistency with runs and to keep taking regular wickets when the decks flatten.

Old Boys Collegians

Gains: Cam Fletcher (Northern Districts). Losses: Matt McEwan (Wellington), Theo van Woerkom (LPW) Lane Tutty (Australia). Contracted players: Todd Astle, Logan van Beek, Cam Fletcher, Ed Nuttall. Captain: Joel Abraham.

Last year's two-day: 3rd. Last year's one-day: 3rd=. Last year's T20: 7th=.

Like always for OBC, depth will be key.

With four contracted players and experienced trio Matt McEwan, van Woerkom and Lane Tutty all gone, Elmwood Park could turn into a revolving door of selections.

Luckily they're used to it and have a number of wider squad members used to going back and forth from seniors.

OBC think they've attracted Ben Ward across from LPW, though LPW think they've retained the young batsmen who wants to keep wickets once his injured shoulder is right.

A lot depends on their regulars scoring heavily and taking wickets though.

Riccarton

Gains: Mario Stols (Wellington), Ben Raine (UK). Losses: Chris Mugford (retired) Hayden Beaumont (break), Dean Brownlie (Northern Districts). Contracted players: Cole McConchie, Hamish Bennett. Captain: Cole McConchie.

Last year's two-day: 6th. Last year's one-day: 9th. Last year's T20: 7th=.

Riccarton remain a team in rebuilding-mode, though the losses of Chris Mugford and Hayden Beaumont have made that more difficult. They will be without Dean Brownlie too, though he was never a regular fixture.

The side will again have player-coach Ben Rapson and captain Cole McConchie leading them and have picked up experienced South African seamer Mario Stols from Wellington and county cricket Ben Raine who will play for his third Christchurch club.

Riccarton finished down the table in all three competitions last season, but could upset on their day.

St Albans

Gains: Nathan Roberts (UK). Losses: Brad Cachopa (Auckland). Contracted players: Kyle Jamieson. Captain: James O'Gorman.

Last year's two-day: Champions. Last year's one-day: 5th. Last year's T20: 3rd=

St Albans waltzed to victory in last year's two-day competition and have kept the same side together.

James O'Gorman takes over as skipper of arguably the best balanced side in the competition with a wealth of riches with both bat and ball.

They pick up Glamorgan second XI opening bowler Nathan Roberts to add to regular seamers Michael Davidson, Duncan Anderson and David Twigg while Matt Holstein and George Earl will pick up the slow bowling duties.

Greg Dawson and O'Gorman will be looked upon to score plenty of runs as always and be among a number of the Saints side pushing for high honours.

Sydenham

Gains: George Harding (UK). Losses: Phil Robinson (Australia), Rob Nicol (Auckland), Simon Keen (Australia), Arnie Yugaraja (Tauranga). Contracted players: None. Captain: Chris Harris.

Last year's two-day: 2nd. Last year's one-day: 6th. Last year's T20: Champions

The loss of both Rob Nicol and Simon Keen appears huge on paper, but the reality is they hardly played last season.

Phil Robinson and Arnie Yugaraja moving on will, however, be big losses.

Captain, coach and senior player Chris Harris will lead the side on all counts, but the 44-year-old is confident Syds can compete especially if some of the top order stand up as they're expected to.

''We played well in the two day competition last year and the number of wins we had might have won the competition another year,'' he said.

''We've got three or four good quality young players who have been in the team for a few years now and it's time for them to start making their mark.''

Chris Cooper, Braden and Mitchell Gardner will lead the new ball attack while Harris and left-arm import George Harding, who stands at 1.98m (6ft 6in), will do the bulk of the slower bowling.

The Press