Firebirds return to scene of opening round massacre
In a handy early-season coincidence, first-round winners Wellington and Otago open week two of the Plunket Shield.
The Firebirds had one of their most dominant victories in recent memory, by an innings and 205 runs over Auckland, and return to the Basin Reserve today.
New captain Rob Nicol’s Otago secured a seven-wicket win over defending champions Canterbury.
In other matches, Central Districts and Auckland meet in Nelson while Canterbury host Northern Districts who drew with the Stags in round one.
WELLINGTON v OTAGO Basin Reserve, Wellington
It was very good from recordbreakers Wellington but too bad to be true from Auckland who somehow were bowled out for 62 on the first morning last Monday.
The Basin pitch had a green tinge but played well, as evidenced by Michael Papps and Luke Woodcock’s record opening stand of 432, and Papps’ epic unbeaten 316.
Otago finished last in every format last season so their comfortable run chase against Canterbury was a big result for new skipper Nicol, whose side was boosted by key performances from its senior men.
Neil Wagner was his usual aggressive self and snared five wickets for the match while former test spinner Mark Craig’s return was notable for his second innings 4-87 to help skittle the hosts for 299.
Hamish Rutherford’s 90 helped polish off that chase for 239 and Otago’s batsmen should enjoy the Basin, too, against an attack led by Hamish Bennett who did a job on Auckland.
Wellington (from): Michael Bracewell (captain), Hamish Bennett, Tom Blundell, Fraser Colson, Iain McPeake, Stephen Murdoch, Ollie Newton, Jeetan Patel, Michael Papps, Matt Taylor, Logan van Beek, Luke Woodcock.
Otago (from): Rob Nicol (captain), Neil Broom, Mark Craig, Derek de Boorder, Jacob Duffy, Anaru Kitchen, Jimmy Neesham, Michael Rae, Hamish Rutherford, Nathan Smith, Brad Wilson, Neil Wagner.
CD v AUCKLAND Saxton Oval, Nelson
The Stags welcome back Jesse Ryder from injury, replacing opener Ben Smith who suffered a broken finger in round one, the drawn first innings runfest against Northern in Tauranga.
Batsman Brad Schmulian was the story for the Stags, becoming the only batsman in New Zealand first-class cricket to score a doublecentury on debut. They’ll need him to fire again as the Stags look thin without Black Caps George Worker and Tom Bruce again, although Ryder’s return will help.
Spinner Ajaz Patel will again be a key with the ball after he began the season as he left off, snaring nine for the match before his teammates clung on for the draw.
Auckland’s young batting lineup were badly exposed in Wellington and test opener Jeet Raval will carry the burden at the top. Legspinner Tarun Nethula will hope for more suitable conditions at Saxton Oval after he snared wickets for fun last summer.
Central (from): Will Young (captain), Greg Hay, Jesse Ryder, Brad Schmulian, Mitch Renwick, Dane Cleaver, Doug Bracewell, Bevan Small, Ajaz Patel, Seth Rance, Navin Patel, Blair Tickner.
CANTERBURY v ND Mainpower Oval, Rangiora
Captain and reigning player of the season Andrew Ellis is back for Canterbury after a broken bone in his left hand delayed his start to 2017-18. The allrounder will bolster an injury-hit Canterbury who won three of the last four shield titles but stumbled against Otago at home in round one.
Canterbury, who are missing contracted fast bowlers Kyle Jamieson, Ed Nuttall, Nathan McNicol and Henry Shipley through injury, have been boosted by the addition of 25-year-old Sydney-based all-rounder Daniel Sams.
Sams, a middle order batsman and left-arm opening bowler, is available for the next two matches, while prolific batsman Ken McClure is close to a return.
Northern, who were three wickets away from toppling the Stags, will be without test wicketkeeper BJ Watling who has a hip injury. He was part of the Northern top-six who all scored half-centuries in the first innings against Central.
Canterbury (from): Andrew Ellis (captain), Chad Bowes, Jack Boyle, Leo Carter, Blake Coburn, Cam Fletcher, Tim Johnston, Ken McClure, Cole McConchie, Michael Pollard, Daniel Sams, Fraser Sheat, Will Williams.
Northern (from): Daniel Flynn (captain), Brent Arnel, James Baker, Dean Brownlie, Henry Cooper, Anton Devcich, Zak Gibson, Scott Kuggeleijn, Bharat Popli, Brett Randell, Tim Seifert, Joe Walker.