It's seven years since Northern Districts last won the Plunket Shield, the symbol of supremacy in New Zealand first-class cricket.

But there's every opportunity for the side to make a fast start this season in the first match starting Wednesday morning against Otago at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui.

There are six Black Caps in the 12-man squad named for the match, and two former test match players in captain Daniel Flynn and experienced batsman Dean Brownlie.

In contrast Otago have been decimated by players leaving the province, among them Black Cap fast bowler and new Pāpāmoa resident Neil Wagner who'll play his first match in ND colours today.


"It's a great way to start, and we have lots of experience," says Northern Districts captain Daniel Flynn. "But we have to make the most of it."

Mount Maunganui locals, and two of the best cricketers in the world, Kane Williamson and Trent Boult spearhead the home side with their Black Caps teammates Ish Sodhi, BJ Watling and Northern Districts newcomers Colin de Grandhomme and Wagner.

Experienced opening bowler Tim Southee wanted to play but has an irritation in his right knee.

"We're hopeful he'll be back for next week's second-round match against Canterbury," says new ND coach John Bracewell.

Williamson has recently returned from a stint with English county side Yorkshire, playing mainly T20 matches although he did have two first-class matches in late August.

He passed 50 in three out of four visits to the crease in the four-day matches and his most recent innings of 51 against Somerset at Leeds took him past 10,000 runs in first-class cricket.

For the modest Black Caps captain, who enjoyed a stellar season in the Indian Premier League in April and May, it'll be his first match in just over five weeks.

"It's a double plus, being at home as well," he says.


"A lot of my best mates are in this side."

But there's no hint of overconfidence going into what looks like a very one-sided matchup.

"You always have to respect the opposition. It's most important to address what's in front of you. All the Black Caps will be looking to do their bit for this side."

For Daniel Flynn, himself a 24-test Black Cap till 2013, having so many international players available for this match can be an educational experience for those who'll step into the team when the Black caps head to the United Arab Emirates later this month.

"It'll be great to have them. There's a lot of knowledge they can share with the wider squad."

Flynn, who's 33, hasn't given up on getting back in the Black Caps.

"I always harbour ambitions to play in the New Zealand side. You're only a couple of big scores away from your name going up in lights."

The biggest names in the Otago team are two former Black Caps.

Off-spinner Mark Craig is the captain, while opening batsman Hamish Rutherford will be expected to shoulder a lot of the run scoring responsibility.

But their most intriguing player is fast bowler Warren Barnes.

The 26-year-old injury-prone South African played just two Plunket Shield matches last season but took 15 wickets in them at an average of 11.86.

He's the player who created a stir last season by wearing protective headgear while bowling in a T20 match to protect himself on his follow through from a batsman hitting a straight drive.

Plunket Shield Round 1
WHAT: Northern Districts v Otago (Four day match)
WHERE: Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui
WHEN: 10.30 am Wednesday to Saturday
Free admission