Stalemate but Stags' eyes on T20 No 3

By ANENDRA SINGH sports editor

Otago Volts v CD Stags

Day 4, Plunket Shield

University Oval, Dunedin

FORGET one eye, coach Alan Hunt and his boys will have both eyes on the HRV Cup Twenty20 cricket match on Boxing Day.

"It's a big game in the context of the competition for us after a disjointed build-up with the shield matches," Hunt said after the Devon Hotel Central District Stags versus Otago Volts Plunket Shield match meandered to a predictable stalemate at tea at the University Oval, Dunedin.

The Stags are leading the shield competition regardless of yesterday's outcome but have yet to claim victory in the hit-and-giggle format after two losses to the Northern Districts and the Wellington Firebirds.

"If we don't get a win then it'll become a big climb to make the playoffs. I'm not saying we won't be able to make the playoffs but it'll become increasingly harder," Hunt said of the non-televised match against the Firebirds at the Basin Reserve, in Wellington, from 3pm.

The capital city slickers have had the wood on CD in both the shield matches and another win for them on Boxing Day will mean a whitewash with just two Ford Trophy one-day (50-over) matches left to rub salt in the wound.

"We'll have played Wellington again and then we won't have to play them again."

Hunt welcomed a timely Christmas break before joining the T20 "circus", which offers a lucrative payout at the annual Club Champions Trophy Tournament around October next year.

The shield match had all the hallmarks of a stalemate on Wednesday and so it came to pass yesterday.

"Look it's always difficult to get a result when you've lost 60 overs on day one to rain," Hunt said yesterday, adding the increasingly slow and low wicket didn't get the gastric juices flowing much either.

"They set deep fields and bowled hard up," he said.

Going into the round in second place, Otago were understandably content to take some points off CD after they were outplayed at Nelson Park, Napier, last month despite digging their toes in a little to show some ticker on the final day to avoid the inevitable.

The Auckland Aces, who leapfrogged Otago to second place after an outright victory against the Canterbury Wizards at Eden Park outer oval on Wednesday, would be rubbing their hands with glee with the draw yesterday.

"They [Otago] were 17 to 18 points behind us so if they had lost today they would have been about 30 points behind us so it's fair to say neither side wanted to lose the match."

Hunt said while CD could feel Auckland panting on their heels, he preferred to focus on the Stags' winning cricket so far this summer.

Trailing by 22 runs on the first innings, the Volts dutifully occupied the batting crease yesterday to take the Jamie How-captained CD team out of the game with a sedate 227-4 before the declaration at tea.

Night watchman Neil Wagner top-scored with 65 while import Ryan ten Doeschate followed up his first-innings ton with an unbeaten 54 in his 100th first-class match.

Part-time leg-spinner Jeet Raval grabbed 2-24 from eight overs, including three maidens but How didn't use him enough.

Mathew Sinclair, who scored his 36th century, and believed to be his maiden one in Dunedin, had said orthodox spinner Ajaz Patel, in for injured ex-Black Caps leggie Tarun Nethula, did bowl frugally after 37 overs, including 12 maidens, bleeding 95 runs but was wicket-less in the second dig.

"Ajaz was bowled really well and had several edges but the ball dropped into open spaces between the slips," Hunt explained, adding Sinclair kept wicket after first-choice wicky and former Black Cap Kruger van Wyk injured his finger.

While he was not privy to why Raval was underutilised on the field, Hunt suspected How stuck with Patel because of his consistency and diligence and also because the ball was reverse swinging a little to offer medium pacers more traction.

English import Peter Trego also bowled well and was unlucky while Roald Badenhorst, after an average first innings, found some joy in the second one.

Seamer Andrew Lamb was undergoing a test for hamstring strain but would be available for the annual Provincial A Tournament in Christchurch from January 2 although Black Caps speed merchant Adam Milne and Nethula are likely to return on Boxing Day for the T20.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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