Stags welcome back Ben Wheeler
The Ford Trophy is back from this Friday but it will be a match with a difference when the Central Stags run on to Eden Park Outer Oval against the Auckland Aces.
The Stags and Aces head into the final four rounds urgently needing lift-off from the bottom of the table, but with chances of reaching the playoffs very much alive if they can power through the back end of the regular season.
Had Auckland remained in Level 3 after the latest COVID-19 alerts, Rounds 7 and 8 (between the same teams on Sunday) would have seen these points shared, whilst the teams ahead of them played elsewhere in New Zealand looking to push themselves further ahead on the table.
So, while Friday and Sunday’s matches will be eerie affairs — with COVID-19 precautions in place and no spectators permitted under Level 2 protocols, the teams know how lucky they are to be playing.
The Stags have named a strong side for the crunch contests, BLACKCAP Ross Taylor coming in for his first Ford Trophy fixture since February 2017 (poised to play his 299th and 300th List A matches overall), while fellow NZC-contracted batsman Will Young will be potentially making his 50th Ford Trophy appearance for the Stags tomorrow at Outer Oval.
Ajaz Patel is one of two left-arm spinners in the side alongside another Hawke’s Bay tweaker in Jayden Lennox — who is coming off his debut Dream11 Super Smash season as the country’s most economical bowler of the T20s, conceding a rate of just 5.46 runs from his four appearances at an impressive average of 13.66 (also the best of the summer).
In The Ford Trophy, Lennox has conceded just 4.73 per over from the six games so far this season, emerging as quality back-up for masterful Patel who has shouldered so much of the spin workload in his successful Stags career.
In the pace department, the Stags welcome back another left-armer in Ben Wheeler who makes his first appearance in the squad this season after returning from injury, however allrounder Doug Bracewell is out of the mix after having sustained a side strain in the practice nets.
Captain Tom Bruce says the team is looking to take the momentum gathered from a strong Dream11 Super Smash campaign in which they reached the Elimination Final back into the one-day format.
“We didn’t get off to a good start in the pre-Christmas rounds of The Ford Trophy, but with a fairly congested table we’re still very much in contention for a playoff spot — and if you make the playoff, you’re a chance.
“So we’ve got everything to play for, and we’re certainly motivated to put in a strong performance at Outer Oval with the Aces currently just two points ahead of us and an opportunity for us to move up the table.”
Round seven begins at 11am tomorrow (Friday) with livescoring at https://scoring.nzc.nz/centraldistricts.
CENTRAL STAGS SQUAD : ROUNDS 7 and 8
v Auckland Aces
Eden Park Outer Oval
Round 7 | 11am • Friday 19 February
Round 8 | 11am • Sunday 21 February
Admission: Closed to spectators [Level Two Alert protocol]
Tom Bruce (c)
Dane Cleaver (w)
Coach: Aldin Smith
Unavailable for selection: Doug Bracewell (side strain), Seth Rance (calf)
Current points: ND 22, Canterbury 18, Otago Volts 12, Wellington Firebirds 10, Auckland Aces 9, Central Stags 7
Points Awarded: Won - 4, Lost - 0, Tied - 2, No Result - 2, Abandoned - 2, Bonus Point (Run Rate 1.25 x Opponents') - 1