Stags play like schoolboys'

By ANENDRA SINGH sports editor

Firebirds v CD Stags

HRV Cup T20

Basin Reserve

THREE GAMES and three losses and enough damning evidence to suggest it'll go down in domestic cricket history as a season of road kill when it came to the Wellington Firebirds in at least two formats with the limited-overs compeition to go.

A courageous batting effort from promoted Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags batsman Mathew Sinclair, who mustered 71 runs off 43 balls, couldn't stop the visitors yesterday's from averting their worst start in an HRV Cup Twenty/20 campaign.

"We're all embarrassed and pretty glad it wasn't on TV today, mate," the veteran record-breaking batsman said last night of the Alan Hunt-coached CD.

Jesse Ryder, no doubt, got into the act but so did some of his willow-weilding gang as the Jamie Siddons-coached Firebirds thumped the Stags by 53 runs.

It was yet another defeat to the capital city slickers in not only the T20 format, but also just as many four-day Plunket Shield matches although CD are leading in that competition.

One could be forgiven for suggesting defending one-day champions CD need a gaggle of psychologists to prime them up before the two  remaining Ford Trophy matches this summer.

Chasing down a total of 213-8 was always going to be a daunting task at the Basin Reserve, Wellington, yesterday after rain had reduced the game to an 18-over affair although CD had stayed in touch until the 10th over before the run rate crept up on them as the wheels came off in 18 overs.

"We played like an under-13 age-group side - it wasn't great," Sinclair lamented, adding none from the CD coaching stable was keen to talk to the media after the drubbing.

He said chasing almost 15 runs an over from the first ball was always going to be an unrealistic project for batsmen to pursue, regardless of how talented they might be.

The bowlers were guilty of bowling too many length balls, the fielding was "woeful" and the extras inexcusable.

It was another no-show from veteran Jacob Oram in what should have been arguably the strongest line up from the visitors in the hit-and-giggle version of the game this summer with a swag of players returning from nursing injuries, including captain Kieran Noema-Barnett.

"His [Oram's] wife was expecting their second baby last night [Christmas Day] so he made himself unavailable.

"Look, in all honesty, we didn't execute our plans well."

Sinclair said the onus was on bowlers to find tight lines and lengths and bowl to a field they deemed to be suitable to what they were about to execute.

"Whether it's a yorker-length ball, a slower one or whatever. At the end of the day they are accountable so they need to back themselves and the team will back them."

Two balls after the halfway stage of the Firebirds' innings, Trego had the prize scalp of Ryder but Cyclone Jesse had again inflicted widespread damage with the hosts on 104-3.

Ryder had bludgeoned five sixes and two boundaries for a don't-argue 47 off 22 balls on a "very good batting wicket".

Amazingly the top four Wellingtonians had occupied the batting crease with a strike rate of more than 100 per cent.

Their run rate seldom ever dipped below 10. If it did, it was only ever so briefly before the worm bounced back a ball or two later.

Every batsman, bar No3 Michael Papps who made three fours only, scored boundaries and sixes at will and got into double figures.

If anyone thought the Firebirds had shades of the India cricket team - that is, they win only when Sachin Tendulkar performs - than yesterday such comparisons with Ryder proved to be futile although he did provide an ideal platform with fellow opener Tamim Iqbal.

"It was a good consistent performance ... we had a good game plan and it came off so we're very happy," Siddon said last night.

"It still came on the back of Jesse's 47 and set the tone of the match.

"That's what he's paid to do and he does a great job," the Australian said, adding Ryder shouldn't be too far from a Black Caps call up.

"I think he's getting closer [to a call up] with perhaps in the limited-overs and T20 being the right path for him when the England tour starts," Siddon said, upbeat about the Firebirds' chances of making the T20 play-offs.

No5 Chris Woakes top scored for Wellington with an unbeaten 55 (29 balls) while fellow import Iqbal added 35 (20) at No 1 and No6 Grant Elliott also 35 (18).

CD bowlers took a spanking, with speed merchant Adam Milne perhaps feeling like the character from Groundhog Day after going to the tune of 17.33 an over from three overs for Elliott's scalp after his return from resting an achilles strain following CD's round two defeat at McLean Park, Napier, against the same opposition.

Left-arm spinner Marty Kain went for 14 runs an over for a wicket while ex-Black Caps legspinner Tarun Nethula went for 12.25 runs an over for a wicket.

English import Peter Trego took 2-35 at 9.4 runs an over although he pulled a ball shy of his four allotted overs after pulling a muscle.

"Tregs will have to go for a scan tomorrow. The prognosis doesn't look very good, but he thinks he's torn something in his rib.

"He's walking like a 100-year-old man right now in the changing room next to me. Put it this way, if we had a wheelchair with us he'd have no problems hopping into it right away because when he [coughs] it hurts," Sinclair said with a laugh.

Trego, he said, delivered a "bloody good ball to get Jesse out".

While wicket-less, Zimbabwe international seamer Kyle Jarvis was the most frugal at nine runs and over.

Wellington skipper Elliott had found a welcome breakthrough from first-change bowlers Dane Hutchinson and Mark Houghton claiming wickets, trapping opener Jamie How leg before wicket for 14 runs and No 3 William Young caught Scott Kuggeleijn for 20 runs, respectively.

Noema-Barnett was the next best scorer with 33 runs.

Auckland host Wellington at Eden Park on the main oval tomorrow night and Northern Districts visit the picturesque Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, to play CD on Saturday.

Emphasising it was about controlling what they could despite the southerlies kicking in, Sinclair said the Stags had two days to fix their problems.

In a few weeks, ND might come to regard a miserable late afternoon at Eden Park with considerable fondness.

They pulled off their fourth win in five HRV Cup games to sit four points clear at the top of the table after a rain-hit Duckworth Lewis contest against Auckland.

With rain coming and going through the contest, the upshot was Auckland were left 73 to win in six overs and got nowhere near it, finishing on 49 for six to hand ND a 23-run win by the D/L system.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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