Cricket: Dunedin debacle still disgusts O'Donnell

By David Leggat

If you run into Auckland coach Mark O'Donnell this week, to unashamedly paraphrase Basil Fawlty, don't mention Dunedin.

O'Donnell is still seething after sitting through the day-and-a-half farce at University Oval last week, when Otago beat Auckland by six/five wickets on a pitch which made batting a lottery.

Auckland, second in the State Championship table six points behind Wellington, host Northern Districts at Eden Park from today, confident they can get the Otago stain out of their system. After all, they arrived in Dunedin having hit 400-plus in each of their first two matches.

"It was an unmitigated cockup and a disgraceful wicket," O'Donnell said last night of the block which will host the first test against Bangladesh starting on January 4.

"I've been five times to [University Oval] in the last five years and on each occasion it's been substandard. They just haven't got it right."

O'Donnell said those claiming that the pitch was not so bad and that poor batting played a large part in proceedings were "deluding themselves".

"I'm getting irritable because there's a bit of arse-covering going on," said O'Donnell, who has been coaching in the first-class game round the world for 19 years.

"If you'd put a test attack on that surface you'd probably have killed someone once the divots dried out."

With that out of his system, O'Donnell pronounced himself delighted with Andre Adams' form - 19 wickets at an arresting 9.5 runs apiece and bowling as well as he has seen him - but wants more out of his batsmen, who have produced 70s and 80s but are yet to get a big hundred.

O'Donnell didn't specifically call for Adams to get a New Zealand recall but did reckon players needed to be picked for higher honours "when they're doing well" not "when they are not in form or in a different form of the game."

Auckland will get the first look at one of the country's most promising batsmen with 17-year-old Tauranga Boys College pupil Kane Williamson making his first-class debut today. Williamson, who played for New Zealand under 19 this year, is tipped for a big future.

He replaces out-of-form Nick Horsley, spinner Bruce Martin is back after recovering from a neck spasm and Brent Arnel is being rested.

Wellington welcome New Zealand fast-medium bowler Iain O'Brien back for their game against Central Districts in Napier. O'Brien has been released from the New Zealand squad ahead of this week's Chappell Hadlee series games in Australia.

He replaces batsman Jesse Ryder, who is out after twisting an ankle in club cricket on Saturday, which might weaken the batting but won't hurt the bowling strength.

An outright win will put Wellington in the box seat ahead of the halfway break in the championship. CD, sitting bottom, need to get moving if they're not to drift right off the pace.

Wellington coach, Anthony Stuart, is happy with progress, which he puts down to playing positive cricket.

"We've been pretty aggressive with the bat and we've given ourselves a chance to take 20 wickets," Stuart said last night, which they have done in all three games so far.

Canterbury play Otago at Queen Elizabeth Park in Christchurch, both teams retaining their playing XIs from the third round, when Canterbury lost to Wellington by 90 runs.

* Points: Wellington 16, Auckland 10, Otago 8, Canterbury 8, ND 4, CD 2.

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