Cricket: Another bad dream for Stags

By Anendra Singh

The next worst thing to a nightmare is waking up to find out you're not in one - it's actually reality unfolding before your very eyes.

Mathew Sinclair had touched on the horror of playing like schoolboys on Boxing Day after a 53-run thumping at the hands of the Wellington Firebirds at the Basin Reserve.

He took heart the Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags were not playing a televised game that day.

Well, all that changed yesterday at the University Oval, Dunedin, where the table-topping Otago Volts thumped them by 93 runs in a televised game that had all the signs of a humiliating end as CD prepared for the clash on the foundation of "playing for pride".

Four dropped catches by 8.4 overs pretty much summed up the day for the Alan Hunt-coached CD team who couldn't seem to get any facet of the game right following the hosts' imposing 194-4 from their 20 allotted overs after CD skipper Kieran Noema-Barnett won the toss and had the Volts padding up.

The visitors' body language spoke volumes from the word go after Carl Cachopa dropped Otago opener Hamish Rutherford at point on the very first ball of the match from offspinner Marty Kain.

It was Groundhog Day for Cachopa a few overs later in the same position and a misfield followed in 8.4 overs at cow's corner when he couldn't hold on to the ball although he did commendably well to make ground to give himself a chance.

All that must have been playing on the mind of the talented four-day Plunket Shield batsman because, during CD's anaemic reply of 101 runs all out in 17 overs, Neil Broom ran out No5 Cachopa for a three-ball duck during the batsman's cameo two-minute occupation of the crease.

However, it seems grossly unfair to single out one man in a game that failed to reach any orgasmic heights for the Stags during any stage.

It was revealed they were on the back foot even before Kain bowled the first ball.

"We had a shaky start just before the toss," said a contrite Sinclair, whose nightmare came complete when he was wired for sound with commentators Craig McMillan and Mark Richardson.

"[Batsman] Will Young had a compound fracture to his right batting finger and has been taken to hospital. I'd say he's out for the rest of the season," Sinclair said of the former New Zealand under-19 captain who was having a humdinger of a season with a maiden first-class century before Christmas.

Speed merchant Adam Milne had the wobbles, too, favouring an ankle, but the coaching stable was happy to use him as a batsman at No6, where he made two runs, falling prey to fellow Black Cap Nathan McCullum.

Jeet Raval made his T20 debut as opener, top scoring with 20 from 15 balls but Noema-Barnett opted not to use him as a spin option on what appeared to be a postage stamp-sized arena.

Seamer Andrew Lamb, called from the New Zealand Provincial A tournament in Christchurch as 12th man, made his T20 debut and was unlucky not to take a wicket or two early in the game but his inexperience came through when his never-arriving deliveries went horribly wrong.

"We just can't drop catches in T20s because they are like dot balls," the veteran lamented, dropping a catch at first slip within the first four overs, albeit a difficult chance as he had lunged with an extended right hand to stop a boundary.

Raval had also misjudged a boundary ball at deep square leg when he came in too early for a catch.

Sinclair, who is the fourth best batsman in the HRV Cup ranking as of last night, lost his wicket for one run to No1 T20 fast bowler Jacob Duffy, when he chopped a delivery on to his shoe as the ball ricocheted on to the stumps to dislodge a bail.

Sinclair fell back to the edict of former CD coach Dermot Reeve, who used to impress on his players the significance of remembering that "every ball is an event in cricket".

"It's a mental thing and the question is whether we were all there today mentally and I think you'll find out the aswer to that question is a big no," said Sinclair, as CD remain rooted at the bottom of the table with four points from one victory this summer and three to go.

They host the Auckland Aces on Wednesday at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, at 4pm and then the Volts at the same time on Sunday. Their last game is away at Eden Park Outer Oval against the Aces on Tuesday, January 15.

The Derek de Boorder-captained Otago have consolidated their position at the top of the HRV Cup standings with 24 points, having won their last six games on the trot with three to play.

McCullum scored 50 runs from 27 balls while Dutch international Ryan ten Doeschate bludgeoned an unbeaten 59 from 32 deliveries to help the Volts post an imposing 194 for four.

Former Canterbury Wizard Ten Doeschate's resume this summer reads - 65, 60no, 47, 61, 26 and 59no - scoring 318 runs in six games at an average of a shade under 80 to be the second best run scorer in the T20 competition.

Sinclair said winning was a habit and CD, who are the shield leaders and defending one-day Ford Trophy champions, had failed to pick that virus.

"I was unlucky to get myself out but I've been [scoring runs] for 19 years now and I'm sitting in the top two to five place in the T20 batting ranks this summer.

"It's kind of hard to get others to go up with you there."

He felt the Stags were lacking confidence, with the bowling and batting not where it should be.

The team had talked about building spirit to find that momentum but to no avail, although that was on the agenda again before they were to jet out this morning for New Plymouth.

"Again, I'm not making excuses but we're seriously lacking leadership," he lamented, with CD playing without Jamie How (paternity call), Kruger van Wyk (resting injured finger) and Jacob Oram (paternity call).

English import Peter Trego was out just before Christmas after a third grade abdominal tear that ended his season in the loss against the Firebirds.

Dumped Black Caps skipper Ross Taylor is likely to come into the fray although that may happen when the shield competition resumes.

Defending champions Auckland still have a slim chance of progressing to the playoffs of the HRV Cup after upsetting Northern Districts Knights at Mount Maunganui yesterday, according to APNZ.

The Aces needed to beat top-placed ND to have any hope of making it three titles in a row, and they did just that on the back of a solid performance with the bat and a suffocating effort with the ball.

Auckland's total of 180-5 was solid if unspectacular, but a couple of early wickets gave the curiously conservative Knights no chance.

Auckland will still need to win their final three games but they all come against competition easy-beats Canterbury and CD.

If they take care of business they will likely finish in a tie for third place with either ND or Wellington, with the final playoff place decided by run rate. Otago now lead the standings after smashing the Stags in Dunedin, and they are in the box seat to secure a direct birth into the final.

Elsewhere, former CD batsman Jesse Ryder was upstaged by opening partner Tamim Iqbal as Wellington romped to a 57-run win over the Canterbury Wizards in Rangiora.

The Bangladeshi opener and Ryder shared a 71-run stand for the first wicket before Iqbal kicked on to make 74 from 47 to help Wellington to a formidable 190-2.

Two-time CD slayers Canterbury's chase started on a bad note when Rob Nicol was dismissed at the end of the second over, the first victim of debutant Ili Tugaga. The 22-year-old seamer went on to complete his set of four overs for the unforgettable figures of 4-18, highlighted by a double-wicket maiden.

By the time Tugaga had finished tearing through the top order, Canterbury were left on 41-4 and eventually stumbled to 133 all out.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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