Elite input for Stags' shield side

By ANENDRA SINGH sports editor

Day 1, Gisborne

Plunket Shield

BONDY was on the blower yesterday from Sri Lanka and Mike Hesson is no stranger either, dropping a line several times from Sri Lanka in the past few days.

Suffice it to say Black Caps bowling coach Shane Bond and team coach Hesson aren't trying to pilfer players to upset the equation of the Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags team to play the Northern Knights in the Plunket Shield match starting today at the Harry Barker Reserve, Gisborne.

Not that it is necessarily a bad thing if the New Zealand selectors pick a few more players to join the likes of captain Ross Taylor, Taradale Cricket Club allrounder Doug Bracewell and Ruahine Motors Central Hawke's Bay wicketkeeper/batsman Kruger van Wyk, because the Stags have so much untapped talent in the wings.

"Bondy's a very good communicator and Mike Hesson rings Hunty as well," CD assistant coach Lance Hamilton said of the former international strike bowler, who was the Stags' bowling consultant for a couple of summers before his national appointment last month.

The upshot was Bond was checking up on CD fast-ball merchant Adam Milne, who arrived home yesterday from Sri Lanka to find himself in the thick of the shield action with coach Alan Hunt and selector Gary Cunningham snapping him up.

The Stags lost their opening encounter to the Wellington Firebirds at Nelson Park, Napier, but bounced back to dominate the Auckland Aces for three days for an outright victory at the same venue a fortnight ago.

"Milney's keen to get out on the park tomorrow," Hamilton said from Gisborne of the Manawatu right-armer, who has completed his international stint in the shorter version of internationals on a tour falling victim to rain.

Should Milne play in the remaining shorter version for the Black Caps here and in South Africa, Hamilton said the 20-year-old would miss half of the HRV Cup campaign and will only be available for two shield matches.

With the reserve in Gisborne offering a greenish tinge first up, it's likely Hunt and CD captain Kieran Noema-Barnett will today opt to bowl first in the four-day match, and go with four seamers including Milne, Ben Wheeler, Andrew Lamb and Andrew Mathieson.

But because the flat is traditionally low and slow, if last summer is anything to go by, then unwanted Black Caps leg spinner Tarun Nethula will come into the equation.

Noema-Barnett, who had picked up a groin injury after the win over Wellington, has benefited from the 10-day break.

"Barney's come through the fitness test all right today. He ran lots of twos and threes so we're confident he'll be playing tomorrow," Hamilton said, although CD have bracketed Taranaki opening batsman Dean Robinson as cover for the skipper.

On Friday next week the Stags are scheduled to play their first HRV Cup T20 against ND in Hamilton (live on Sky TV from Seddon Park from 7.10pm) so it seems dicey to risk further injury to the big hitter, who holds the national domestic record for the fastest half century.

Hamilton said he'll field and bat but not bowl.

Wanganui wicketkeeper/batsman Ben Smith, who has been chalking up decent scores at premier club level, has assumed the mantle of fellow CHB wicky van Wyk. Smith comes in at the expense of Manawatu's Dane Cleaver, who is hampered by a long-term back injury," he said, adding Hunt had set up a rehabilitation programme for him.

Openers Jamie How and Jeet Raval had the toughest assignment but with veteran Mathew Sinclair at first drop and No 4 Carl Cachopa in nick, CD should post decent innings against the defending champions.

Heretaunga Building Society Cornwall allrounder Cachopa is no doubt the envy of first-class cricket so far this summer but CD feel 1, 2, 3 or 7, 8, 9 are all capable.

"Jeet, Jamie and Kieran can all get big scores, too," Hamilton says.

 Hamilton emphasised it wasn't easy to pick the shield team with Manawatu's Roald Badenhorst, Complete

Flooring Napier Technical Old Boys allrounder Stevie Smidt and Taradale spinner Ajaz Patel missing out.

``The group as a whole have a good feeling and the culture is healthy."



CD Stags (one to be omitted): Kieran Noema-Barnett (captain), Jamie How, Jeet Raval, Carl Cachopa, Mathew Sinclair, William Young, Ben Smith (wk), Tarun Nethula, Adam Milne, Ben Wheeler, Andrew Lamb, Andrew Mathieson.

ND Knights (from): Brad Wilson (captain), Graeme Aldridge, Corey Anderson, Brent Arnel, James Baker, Anton Devcich, Tony Goodin, James Marshall, Daryl Mitchell, Ish Sodhi, Adam Wheater, Joseph Yovich.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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