Cricket: Injury hit Auckland brace for CD

By Anendra Singh


When asked what the first name of M Guptill-Bunce was, Auckland Aces captain Gareth Hopkins drew a blank.

"I know he is a distant relative of Martin Guptill," Hopkins said last night of cousin Michael who opened the batting against the Northern Districts Knights in the previous round in the Aces' forgettable innings and 90-run defeat.

That is not to say Hopkins doesn't know what the Eden Park Outer Oval will do when Auckland host Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags in their four-day Plunket Shield match from today.

If anything, his inability to recall the opener's Christian name gave an insight into how much the first-class team have mutated because of injuries.

A little thin in the bowling stocks, with Dean Bartlett injured and Michael Bates likely to undergo a fitness test this morning, Hopkins said last round's 12th man Matt Quinn, Lochie Ferguson and spinner Bhupinder Singh come into the equation.

"In our loss to ND, the majority of the game came down to the toss of the coin, as it does in Hamilton," the wicketkeeper said.

No doubt the two Martins - Chris and Bruce - will carry a fair whack of the workload after the spinner rolled his arm for 56 overs and the veteran seamer for 40. By conceding 230 runs, Bruce came close to the unwanted record of Canterbury's Jason Donnelly, whose 257 runs coughed up in 69 overs in 2010 made him the most expensive bowler in Shield history.

With Singh in the mix, Hopkins didn't rule out employing two tweakers but only after inspecting the deck.

"Our ground staff are the best in the country, so we'll have a good wicket," Hopkins said, adding if both sides bat well, then it would come down to a declaration.

CD coach Alan Hunt has a selection headache after rookie left-armer Ajaz Patel took six wickets to destroy the Canterbury Wizards in Napier but leggie Tarun Nethula is first-choice spinner. Last round's 12th man Roald Badenhorst is out and in come Black Caps seamer Doug Bracewell and fast-medium bowler Bevan Small.

"Dougie's a test bowler, so he's bloody important," Hunt said yesterday, echoing Hopkins' sentiments of the wicket dictating terms but content his 13 players cover all options.

Switching from HRV Cup T20 mode to first-class was challenging but he lauded the Stags for making 300 totals on a "tricky" McLean Park pitch. He said it wasn't often master batsman Mathew Sinclair got into the 80s only to lose his wicket.

Openers Jeet Raval and Jamie How had laid the platform for captain Kieran Noema-Barnett's "exceptional innings" of 90 in the second dig for the 81-run victory to preserve top spot for CD after T20 champions Otago momentarily grabbed the lead when they flogged losing T20 finalists Wellington Firebirds in Dunedin.

Hunt said dumped Black Caps skipper Ross Taylor was timing the ball and was a work in progress after his half ton in Napier.

"He's hitting the ball straight and there's high expectations in the game, so if he finds some form here then we should be in for something special from Ross."

CD Stags (from): Kieran Noema-Barnett (c), Doug Bracewell, Carl Cachopa, Jamie How, Kyle Jarvis, Andrew Mathieson, Tarun Nethula, Ajaz Patel, Jeet Raval, Mathew Sinclair, Bevan Small, Ross Taylor, Kruger van Wyk (wk).

Coach: Alan Hunt.

Auckland Aces (from): Tim McIntosh, Michael Guptill-Bunce, Reece Young, Craig Cachopa, Gareth Hopkins (c, wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Duschan Hakaraia, Bruce Martin, Michael Bates, Chris Martin, Matthew Quinn, Bhupinder Singh, Lochie Ferguson.

Coach: Paul Strang.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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