Cricket: Auckland set on avenging 2-run loss

By David Leggat

Rather than get tied up in the two qualifying games, Auckland captain Gareth Hopkins says players are looking at what could lie ahead. Photo / NZPA
Rather than get tied up in the two qualifying games, Auckland captain Gareth Hopkins says players are looking at what could lie ahead. Photo / NZPA

Auckland are adopting a more mature attitude as they prepare for their Champions League qualifying tournament in South Africa next week.

Rather than artificially try to shut off their minds to what might lie ahead should they win their three-pronged qualifying group - also involving Pakistan's Sialkot Stallions and English representatives Hampshire - Auckland are embracing the chance to avenge their galling two-run loss to Kolkata Knight Riders a year ago.

Should they progress to the tournament proper, they face the Indian Premier League side in Cape Town in their first game.

The international T20 competition, involving the leading domestic teams from nine test-playing nations, has proved barren territory for New Zealand's representatives.

In three attempts since 2009, Otago, Central Districts and Auckland have combined for nine defeats and not a single win.

But rather than get tied up in the two qualifying games, Auckland captain Gareth Hopkins said players are looking at what could lie ahead.

"The guys are talking about [the chance of] facing Kolkata but they are not taking their eye off the next games," Hopkins said from Johannesburg yesterday. "Last year, with the benefit of hindsight, they were a little unsure of how good we were against these guys. Looking back, we should have won those games (against Kolkata and Somerset). Now the guys know there's not that unknown factor we're coming up against. There's not that anxiety. We're confident but calm and there's a belief and trust in each other."

New Zealand Cricket need Auckland to deliver some good news. Should Auckland lose both games, it would not surprise if organisers scratched their heads at what the New Zealand representatives bring to the Champions League table.

Neither opponent will be a pushover. Sialkot are led by Pakistan all-rounder Shoaib Malik and include young left arm spinner Raza Hasan, who made a strong impact at the world T20, and well-regarded seamer Naved-ul-Hasan.

Hampshire are captained by former international all-rounder Dimitri Mascarenhas, who spent time with Otago, and include opener Jimmy Adams, who was with Auckland in 2010-11, erratic but dangerous Pakistan allrounder Shahid Afridi and Australian T20 international Glenn Maxwell.

- NZ Herald

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