Anendra Singh: Stags hit Aces like an ill southerly

By Anendra Singh


It's the sort of thing that would prompt an age-group coach to rebuke his boys on the park during a game of cricket.

You know, blokes in whites with their hands in their pockets, rather than embracing the posture of hungry fielders crouching like tigers, walking up with the bowler chugging in at the opposing ends of a wicket.

But yesterday, and possibly today, may be the exception to the rule for the Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags cricketers at Nelson Park, Napier.

For the record, the umpires presiding at both ends of the wicket during the third day of the four-day Plunket Shield match against the Auckland Aces yesterday, confirmed they were taking no chances as wintry weather took a grip on New Zealand's No 1 summer code.

"We had four layers on, mate. We came well prepared," white coat Wayne Knights said as he and Phil Jones went about their business.

Some of the CD players heading home at stumps confirmed it was the coldest day of cricket they had ever played. The forecast for today offers little respite with a forecast of 14degC, a degree up on yesterday.

However, the day's proceedings would have warmed the hearts of the hosts after they snared 13 wickets, forcing the visitors to follow on to sit precariously today 210-7, still trailing the Stags' first-innings total of 430-9.

If there were any doubts in the first two days, no one will argue the Kieran Noema-Barnett-captained Stags are in total control today when they will toy with the Aucklanders akin to a cat pawing a spent mouse.

After Auckland began the day at 80-4 in their first innings they were bowled out for 210 as CD seamer Andrew Lamb, on debut, finished with 4-65, while No 8 Bruce Martin was the unlikely top scorer for the Aces on 56 not out.

After rookie skipper Noema-Barnett enforced the follow on, Auckland sat on the uncanny total of 210-7 (they were all out for 210 in the first innings) at stumps, still 10 runs in arrears.

In Auckland's second innings, ex-Black Caps legspinner Tarun Nethula carried on his promising effort in the match as he finished the day with 3-36 after he also snagged 3-30 in the first dig.

Auckland will need a huge effort from their tailenders on the final day today if they are to set CD a total of any significance to avoid an innings defeat.

"It was a little frustrating with some close calls but I couldn't quite get the fifth one but it's all right," Lamb said after a memorable three-wicket maiden blitz on Monday.

Lamb, a former Wellington Firebird who didn't find much traction in the capital city, is thriving in the Stags' culture.

"The boys are in such a great spirit and great guys so I feel like part of the furniture here," the 34-year-old said.

Lamb expected the Alan Hunt-coached green army to "polish it off" this morning for a victory following the disappointment of losing a win-able opener to the Firebirds in the first round, thanks to ex-Black Caps batsman Jesse Ryder's back-to-back centuries.

On finding out it was around 14deC today, a beaming Lamb shrugged it off as a degree warmer before depositing it into the realm of uncontrollables.

"You can never bank on the weather but just go for the kill once you get out there with some passion to drive that nail home," he said, adding grizzling wasn't an option for him considering he had bowled in 49degC in Australia.

No doubt the ice baths after each day would have helped conditioned the bodies?

"It's more recovery then preparing yourself for the cold weather. It definitely helps for the next day."

He laughed when asked if it was his career best.

"My career best is actually against CD. I got 6-70 against CD here," the Australian-born from Horowhenua-Kapiti said with a grin.

Lamb said bowling a tidy line and length amid patience were the essential ingredients for snaffling the team's 13 wickets in a day's play.

"Letting the ball swing and do it's thing while attacking the stumps makes it possible so things are just going my way."

Nethula said the discipline as a bowling unit worked wonders, with the mindset of claiming six scalps and forcing the Aces to follow on.

"Our seamers bowled really well, you know Dougie and Lambie and Matha as well," the 29-year-old said of Black Cap Doug Bracewell and ex-ND seamer Andrew Mathieson.

Nethula said claiming 13 wickets on a day was a testimony to a co-operative effort and one any team would take any given day.

The Heretaunga Building Society Cornwall prem club player lauded the opposition batsmen for coming back when the chips were down although not digging their toes in.

It was imperative, he felt, for CD to be clinical this morning to make it a short and sweet day.

Nethula was dropped from the New Zealand playing squad after the tour of West Indies and India because of a "lack of confidence" as a result of not playing games while on tour, according to New Zealand Cricket convenor of selectors Kim Littlejohn.

"I've been doing just what needs to be done. Being back in this set up is something I'm comfortable with  while working with the coaching staff.

"Having been here for three years you know that the Mike Shrimptons, the Greatbatches, the Hamiltons and the Hunts are all there so it's really nice to get back to work on the basics."

Nethula said he hadn't made any changes to the way he bowled. In this game his hand coming out from behind his head again in the mould of a traditional legspinner's action.

"I'm just trying to do what comes naturally to me to bowl consistently and do it day in and day out as I try to contribute positively to the Stags," he said, adding he was taking his axing from the national equation in his stride but, hopefully, he would work his way back into the selectors' matrix by grabbing any opportunities that might arise.

Auckland skipper Gareth Hopkins agreed with the verdict at the end of the day's play: "It's fair to say CD are in the box seat, mate."

Hopkins thought his boys bowled pretty well although they did drop a couple of catches that saw the Stags push to 430 runs in their first innings.

"We just didn't bat very well," he lamented.

Commendably Hopkins wasn't going to make any excuses for coming up short with the willow.

"With experience comes knowledge on how to play play first-class innings and how to bat time but we were a little jetlagged. Without wanting to make excuses, mate, we should be able to change."

He felt with the jetlag was the diet of Twenty20 cricket his troops were still trying to overcome after a stellar Champions League in South Africa where the Aces finished just shy of making the play-offs and, in doing so, becoming the most successful New Zealand club to do that.

"It's what we've been doing for six months now and to make the change first up was tough so we'll go and work that out."

Hopkins was optimistic two guys, No 7 Colin Munro (34no) and No 9 Michael Bates (4no), could still occupy the crease amid overwhelming odds.

"We saw Carl Cachopa bat almost 300 balls to set up this game so that's what we've got to aspire to do," he said of the Cornwall allrounder who carved up a patient 179 runs in the first innings for his highest first-class total.

"He showed us how to soak up the pressure in the first 150 or so balls and didn't get too many runs and then caught up with it later so that was just a classic first-class innings."

Asked if the wintry weather was a factor, a poker-faced Hopkins replied: "I didn't even notice it. If anything its flattened the wicket out."

He felt Bracewell and Noema-Barnett had shown on the benign batting strip that hitting heavy into a good length still extracted seam for the speed merchants.

"You still have to be on your toes but there's nothing too untoward or scary in the wicket because it's still a work-hard bowlers' pitch."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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