Chance for St Peter's to show their class
After a big year the school breaks new ground by contesting the Gillette Cup, writes Aaron Goile.
St Peter's School will be aiming to use their dark horse tag to good effect in their first appearance at the Gillette Cup national school cricket finals starting today.
With Northern Districts usually represented by Hamilton Boys' High School or Tauranga Boys' College, St Peter's head to the one-day tournament at Lincoln having broken that trend, and now are hoping to pull off some wins over other traditional heavyweights.
Two-time defending champions King's College are back and St Peter's coach Simon Cushen knows what to expect from the team they will meet on Saturday.
"King's College are going to be a tough squad. They've got a number of Auckland under-19 players, they're coached by Rory Goodyear who's a very experienced coach," he said.
Palmerston North Boys' High School and Otago Boys' High School are the others to return from last year, while Hutt Valley High School and Christchurch Boys' High School are the other two representatives, with St Peter's to open their campaign against the latter today.
"We're punching above our weight and it's going to be a nice challenge for our guys," Cushen said of their approach to the tournament.
St Peter's have been in great form in the Waikato secondary school competition and produced two big performances to beat Tauranga Boys' (by two wickets) and HBHS (by 44 runs) in their Gillette Cup playoffs.
Recently St Peter's have played in their coloured kit and used white balls to replicate the match conditions they will face at Lincoln, while also using scrimmages to train for specific game scenarios.
The team will rely on senior left-arm spinner Jono Whitley in the bowling department, and he will be supported by off-spinner Josh Oakley, who is the son of former champion squash player Susan Devoy. Another slow option is leg-spinner Doug Bradley.
However, St Peter's will base their attack around their medium pacers who hit good tight lines which fields can be set to.
"That's sort of our strength, just good honest toil. We've got no Tim Southees coming in at 130[kmh]," Cushen said.
St Peter's have a year 12 captain in Tim Seifert and he is one of the most exciting young talents in the region, having already played for the Northern Knights in a pre-season Twenty20 match.
The explosive right-handed batsmen has struck four centuries in his last four outings for the school, and will also be keeping wicket.
"He's been a phenomenal talent for us," Cushen said. "His leadership has really blossomed in 2012. He's matured, his on-field decision-making has come a long way, and field positioning and bowling changes. His captaincy's flourished along with his batting.
"Obviously, Tim's a really important player for us. But, like anything, one guy can't score runs on his own and he can't win games on his own, so key contributions from other guys have been really important for us."
Meanwhile, Waikato Diocesan School for Girls will also be out to ruffle some feathers in the NZCT Cup national finals tournament, which starts tomorrow.
The Twenty20 competition is at Manawaroa Park in Palmerston North and Dio was one of two ND representatives to qualify.
Tauranga's Aquinas College have since pulled out.
Canterbury's representatives have also pulled out and, while a team from Central Districts has been brought in as a replacement, there will now be seven teams instead of eight.
Dio have been in incredible form for a while and in their previous first XI season they only lost one wicket, via a runout, with batters retiring regularly.
The girls play in a Tuesday night school Twenty20 competition, while some players also take the field on Saturdays for a mixed boys and girls Melville team in 30-over games.
They have a young side, with only two year 13s and seven of the 13 players either year 9 or 10, but there are several free scorers with the bat.
Missing in action will be Emma Parker, who will instead be with the Northern Spirit, but her father, John Parker - a former New Zealand batsman - will still be on board as coach.
The only team Dio know a bit about is Saint Kentigern College, who they faced in a pre-season match before daylight saving started. That game was not completed because of bad light.
"We're going into this fairly blind," Parker said. "Women's cricket is such that there is always two or three, or sometimes four, good players, and it's how the others catch or bowl that makes up a performance.
"It'll be hard work, no doubt.
"So, if they came away with a win or two that would be very good."