Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Volts strong across board

Ten Doeschate has been an almost perfect import investment with four 50s, a strike rate of 152 and one dismissal for less than 23 in nine innings. Photo / Getty Images
Ten Doeschate has been an almost perfect import investment with four 50s, a strike rate of 152 and one dismissal for less than 23 in nine innings. Photo / Getty Images

Expect Otago to underline the value of a strong team culture when they meet Wellington in the HRV Cup Twenty20 final today in Dunedin.

Their consistent performances have resulted in nine consecutive wins with a stand-out effort from most squad members at some point. Eight of the team - led by Dutch import Ryan ten Doeschate in second spot behind Wellington's Jesse Ryder - feature in the top 20 of the New Zealand Cricket Players Association MVP table. Their performances have dominated highlight reels.

In Vaughn Johnson's second stint as coach (his first was 1995-97), and after what were understood to be initial reservations from some senior players, the team has become a galvanised unit.

The New Zealand team, under coach Mike Hesson and captain Brendon McCullum might be observing with envy. Hesson was Otago coach and McCullum a key team member on the other occasion Otago won the HRV Cup in 2008-09 (the province's last title in any format).

Ten Doeschate has been an almost perfect import investment with four 50s, a strike rate of 152 and one dismissal for less than 23 in nine innings. However, the development of younger players has been the key campaign theme.

Hamish Rutherford, Jimmy Neesham, Jacob Duffy, Nick Beard, James Fuller and Michael Bracewell have exceeded expectations.

It should also be remembered that Hesson, the human bullseye for much of the opprobrium surrounding the national side at present, was responsible for introducing many of those players to the domestic game.

Their efforts have been reinforced by the performances of established players such as Nathan McCullum, Aaron Redmond, Neil Broom, Derek de Boorder and Ian Butler.

Beard is one whose enthusiasm appears contagious. When Broom ran out Central Districts' Carl Cachopa for a duck to give Otago the advantage a fortnight ago in Dunedin, the sight of a beaming Beard skipping in front of the square leg 'umpire-cam' summed up the joy which cricket can infuse. The 23-year-old's left-arm orthodox deliveries have seen him become the joint top wicket-taker in the competition with 13 at 13.69.

He's challenging Canterbury's international T20 incumbent Roneel Hira who has been bowling those same stock deliveries well.

Beard has gone for just 6.35 runs per over and has taken a wicket every 13 balls. His four for 16 against Wellington was a competition highlight.

Right-arm pace bowler Duffy has been a revelation in his first year out of Southland Boys' High School. He has matched Beard with 13 wickets at 7.77 an over, including four for 21 to keep Auckland 13 runs shy in Queenstown.

His is a quality record considering the 18-year-old has often been asked to bowl in the power play and again at the death. He has been complemented by Fuller and Butler.

In addition to ten Doeschate's batting, Rutherford has excelled as a left-hander with an effortless knack for timing the ball in 'the V'.

It is probably too early to promote the 23-year-old into the national set-up - New Zealand doesn't need any deja vu of his father Ken's agony, debuting as an 19-year-old against the West Indies in their 1984-85 pomp - but he could be selected for the New Zealand XI against England in next month's T20 series warm-ups.

Rutherford and ten Doeschate have been supported by match-winning half-century cameos from Neesham against his former province Auckland (season strike rate 166), McCullum against CD (SSR 137), Redmond against Canterbury (SSR 160), Broom against Auckland (SSR 110), Bracewell against Canterbury (SSR 143) and de Boorder, when he went up the order to No3 against Wellington (SSR 136).

Put simply, there are no obvious Otago weaknesses other than to pierce a batting line-up which has not lost more than seven wickets in an innings all season.

They give the impression of a juggernaut ready to roll on to a second Champions League appearance.

- Herald on Sunday

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