Canterbury Wizards fancy their chances
Jesse Ryder and Shaun Tait are dominating the headlines ahead of tonight's domestic Twenty20 match in the capital but the Canterbury Wizards say that suits them perfectly.
Canterbury are hoping to sneak under the radar and produce an ambush of sorts against a Wellington Firebirds side that is hotly favoured for the match.
Ryder's ridiculously good form and Australian Tait's experience and genuine speed, combined with the fact Canterbury will be without six frontliners, make both sides' season opener a David v Goliath-type encounter, but the Wizards will do well to remember who won that biblical encounter.
Captain Peter Fulton said that with a number of his side set to play their first televised game and even their first game under lights, he was hopeful enthusiasm and nervous energy would help his side out.
"Nothing changes for us," Fulton said.
"We do have a young side and a few guys away but for me and Gary [coach Gary Stead], we expect the same thing we always expect of Canterbury teams - to win."
Fulton said his side would treat Ryder the same way they always did, despite him scoring two first-class centuries last week and two more in practice games beforehand.
"He's such a dangerous player all the time so, like we do to all good players, we'll try and knock him over early and if we can't do that, we'll do our best to restrict him," Fulton said.
And while Tait has been clocked at more than 161kmh in the past, the Rajasthan Royals speedster isn't instilling any fear in the Canterbury lineup nor have Fulton or his fellow batsmen been ramping up the speed dial on the bowling machine.
"I think it's more excitement of playing against him," Fulton said.
"The guys are looking forward to it."
Fulton's been around long enough to know that if his side focus too much energy on Ryder and Tait, other Wellington players will punish them, especially as nine of the Firebirds' 12-man squad have played at international level.
The Wizards might be light on experience but do have their bases covered in terms of talent.
Former Australian international and specialist death bowler Ben Laughlin joined the side last night and will be used in conjunction with two first-class specialists - Ryan McCone and Willie Lonsdale - and English import Gareth Andrew as the seamers.
Tim Johnston will take the slow bowling duties and will be joined by either George Worker or possibly debutant Matt Holstein.
The batting takes care of itself with Fulton, Shanan Stewart, Dean Brownlie and Brad Cachopa all likely to be at the top of the order, while Logan van Beek and Andrew will supply the power later in the innings.
AT A GLANCE
Canterbury Wizards v Wellington Firebirds
Westpac Stadium, tonight 7.10pm Firebirds: $1.42 Wizards: $2.70
Peter Fulton (c), Gareth Andrew, Dean Brownlie, Brad Cachopa, Matt Holstein, Tim Johnston, Ben Laughlin, Willie Lonsdale, Ryan McCone, Henry Nicholls, Shanan Stewart, Logan van Beek, George Worker. WELLINGTON FIREBIRDS Grant Elliott (c), Harry Boam, Cameron Borgas, Mark Gillespie, Dane Hutchinson, Andy McKay, Michael Papps, Michael Pollard, Luke Ronchi, Jesse Ryder, Shaun Tait, Luke Woodcock.