Otago Daily Times

Ruther­ford op­ti­mistic about shield

CRICKET

- ADRIAN SECONI

OTAGO opener Hamish Ruther­ford might have some mak­ing up to do with his fa­ther, Ken Ruther­ford.

But then, he was com­ing to the end of a two­week stint in man­aged iso­la­tion when he de­scribed his dad as ‘‘an­cient’’.

Ruther­ford, who re­cently re­turned from the United King­dom where he was play­ing for Worces­ter­shire in the Vi­tal­ity Blast, is out of iso­la­tion now. But be­fore he emerged he told the Cricket Na­tion Cast pro­gramme he was op­ti­mistic about Otago’s Plun­ket Shield cam­paign.

The first­class com­pe­ti­tion starts next week. Otago has not won the tour­na­ment since the 1987­88 sea­son.

‘‘The last time we won it was when my fa­ther played so that’s how long ago it was be­cause he is an­cient now,’’ Ruther­ford re­sponded when asked what the Plun­ket Shield means to him.

‘‘It means a lot. It is ob­vi­ously the hard­est for­mat to win.

‘‘I don’t know the feel­ing. But I’m sure if you are sit­ting, at the end of the sea­son, in your whites and you’ve got a shield in the mid­dle of the shed with a beer in your hand, then I think that must be pretty re­ward­ing be­cause there is ob­vi­ously a lot of hard work that goes into win­ning that comp.’’

Otago has strug­gled in the four­day for­mat in re­cent sea­sons but made some progress last sum­mer.

The Volts fin­ished in third but had won their last two games be­fore the sea­son was cut short due to Covid­19.

They were a long way be­hind Welling­ton, which won the com­pe­ti­tion. But the Volts could have eas­ily slipped past Cen­tral Dis­tricts and into sec­ond place.

That late surge has boosted the con­fi­dence of what is a rel­a­tively young side.

‘‘I guess we haven’t re­ally found our method like in years back. And on top of that we have a young shed.

‘‘Maybe go­ing into last year only a cou­ple of peo­ple had played more than 20 games . . . and that is not a lot of cricket for the guys.’’

That said, Otago made a ‘‘step in the right di­rec­tion’’ be­fore Covid­19 in­ter­vened.

‘‘Hope­fully, we can build on that and make a few tweaks here and there and put in some good per­for­mances and see where we fin­ish come April.’’

The Volts have one new face in the con­tracted group. Cen­tral Dis­tricts seamer Jar­rod McKay has made his way south in search of more play­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The 20­year­old right­armer made his de­but at the be­gin­ning of last sea­son and grabbed a cou­ple of wick­ets.

But on the other side of the ledger the Volts have lost the ser­vices of South African all­rounder Dean Fox­croft.

He is con­tracted for the sea­son but went home dur­ing the off­sea­son and is un­able to re­turn to New Zealand due to the border re­stric­tions.

Ruther­ford de­scribed Fox­croft’s ab­sence as a ‘‘big loss’’ but it was also an op­por­tu­nity for some­one like Nathan Smith to demon­strate his skills as an all­rounder.

He high­lighted the 22­yearold as ‘‘a player to watch this sea­son’’.

Smith made his de­but while he was still at school and Ruther­ford said ‘‘I think the time is prob­a­bly right now for him to put his hand up’’.

Smith scored his maiden first­class cen­tury last sea­son and shapes as a key bowler, par­tic­u­larly in the white­ball for­mats.

Ja­cob Duffy was the com­pe­ti­tion’s lead­ing wicket­taker last year and the Volts will lean on him heav­ily again.

‘‘He has been quite re­mark­able the last cou­ple of sea­sons with his per­for­mances and hope­fully he can con­tinue that this sea­son as well.’’

Otago’s open­ing Plun­ket Shield fix­ture is against Auck­land at Eden Park be­gin­ning next Tues­day.

 ?? PHOTO GRE­GOR RICHARD­SON ?? Bit of a road . . . Otago bats­man Anaru Kitchen plays a de­fen­sive shot to a de­liv­ery from Michael Rip­pon on the ar­ti­fi­cial turf at Lo­gan Park yes­ter­day.
PHOTO GRE­GOR RICHARD­SON Bit of a road . . . Otago bats­man Anaru Kitchen plays a de­fen­sive shot to a de­liv­ery from Michael Rip­pon on the ar­ti­fi­cial turf at Lo­gan Park yes­ter­day.

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