Cricket: Stags find mongrel for first T20 win

By Anendra Singh

That in the previous three rounds Alan Hunt wasn't answering his phone soon after the HRV Cup Twenty/20 match was a given - but all that changed in the fourth round.

Unfortunately for the Devon Hotel Central Districts coach, the fourth-round home game was on a Saturday so with no Hawke's Bay Today edition on Sundays, the urgency to call him straight away to meet the dreaded newspaper deadline wasn't there.

"Funny that, we won a game and you didn't phone me. I was hurting a bit," he said yesterday after captain Kieran Noema-Barnett and his troops broke their T20 drought after three defeats on the trot.

It wasn't just any team they beat, but the table-topping Northern Districts Knights and it came at the majestic Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, a venue CD are partial to during their HRV Cup campaign.

"It's a bit of a fortress for us. We're hard to beat here. I think we haven't lost here in eight games," Hunt said of the 43-run flogging, which came on the foundation of an 111-run partnership between veteran Mathew Sinclair and rookie William Young, gracing his home turf for the first time in the T20 domestic competition.

Needless to say, the elation of getting the monkey off the back of what had already become the worst start to a T20 season was immense if CD make the playoffs in a season when the third-placed qualifiers will have a crack in the semifinals.

A predictably parochial crowd - savouring the picnic-like atmosphere where the Stags last summer lifted the Ford Trophy for the one-day domestic bragging rights - got behind the lads, who did their bit in posting a defendable total of 186-4.

Opener Sinclair, 37, a shoo-in over recent summers to help nurture young talent, struck a subliminal chord with Young, the former New Zealand Under-19 skipper.

Whipping two consecutive sixes off left-armer Bradley Scott, the Taranaki representative carved up his maiden HRV Cup half-ton from 21 balls.

For the man they call "Skippy", it was his 10th career T20 half-century coming off a more sedate 41 deliveries, which included three lusty sixes off ND English import Steven Croft.

Sinclair finished with 71 off 52 balls, holing out to Daryl Mitchell just inside the rope to a Croft delivery as CD approached the 11th over.

"He is a bit of a legend and someone who continues to defy his age barrier," Hunt said of the veteran, who has a penchant of shattering not only CD but myriad national domestic records.

While Sinclair continues to rock the cradle of development, especially in the four-day Plunket Shield competition as CD set the pace, Hunt is under no illusions about Generation Y talents such as Young keeping their end of the bargain in the changing of guards in the squad.

"They have to because they are our best players," he says, emphasising that Young had made an impression at No3, with 57 off 29 balls on the heels of his maiden first-class century against the Wellington Firebirds at Karori Park a fortnight ago.

Oh yes, the boy's good, and Hunt reckons he's a "player of the future who'll play for Central Districts for a long time".

With English import Peter Trego booking his flight back to Somerset after a grade three abdominal tear in the T20 round three defeat to the Firebirds, someone had the chance of impressing amid the revolving-door traffic of injuries and expectant fathers.

You may well ask: "What's up with Stags and babies?"

Veteran opener Jamie How becomes the latest dad to head off home, as wife Tammy is expecting their second child.

"I suppose the guys are getting older and while the timing isn't ideal [to have babies] we just have to get on with it," says Hunt, expecting the former New Zealand international to be out for at least three games but hopeful he might be back if the bundle of joy arrives early.

Another reassuring factor on Saturday was the Stags' bowling brigade. It wasn't so much that Kyle Jarvis took 3-39 and fellow speed merchant Adam Milne backed him up with 2-31 or that leggie Tarun Nethula took 2-24, but the way the spittle shiners went about their business that pleased Hunt.

"We were getting a bit more mongrel and dominance over the batsmen," he says, with the side hosting Canterbury Wizards at Saxton Oval, Nelson, at 2pm tomorrow and then reloading for Thursday at the same venue.

Hunt says Sinclair's fine, only bruising his wrist in a collision with wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk, which prompted 12th man Ben Smith to come in as fielder.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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