Brad Hodge appreciates the expectation will be on him to deliver in his only appearance for Auckland when they start their bid for a third straight domestic T20 title in Wellington tonight.

Hodge is now the classic hired T20 gun and with a one-month gap before their second game, Auckland needed an experienced hand, who required no nursemaiding, to do a job in a one-off situation. Hodge fits the bill.

"With one game it's always difficult, the pressure is on you, so you want to do well and hopefully I'll get it right and get some runs," the 37-year-old Victorian said yesterday. "Every time you play for someone else you try and get your A game up and running."

He's been doing that for most of his T20 career.


Consider that only one other player has scored more T20 runs around the globe than Hodge; and only West Indian superbat Chris Gayle (23) and recent Auckland import Azhar Mahmood (19) have more man of the match awards than Hodge's 18 and you see the value he brings to the teams he lines up for.

Hodge played only six tests for Australia, scored a double hundred against South Africa in Perth, and finished with a cracking average of 55.88. If he felt under-utilised by the national selectors, who did have a full hand to choose from at that time, that's history.

T20 is the game for Hodge and few are better at it. He had a season with Northern Districts two summers ago and now maps out his year from roughly December to May, trotting around the T20 leagues.

He's with the Melbourne Stars in the forthcoming Big Bash League, is expected to be in Bangladesh, the Indian Premier League and possibly the US competition, in which New Zealand Cricket have a large interest, if it gets off the ground next year.

And while he's thriving in the twilight of his career he insists younger players should strive to be quality cricketers across the three forms.

"If I was 22 I'd be trying to excel in all forms ... Guys who have average techniques can excel in T20 and can make a living, but it's still good to be able to play in all forms. You have one bad season in T20, especially in the subcontinent and you can be forgotten, never to return."

Shane Warne is leading the Stars in the Big Bash. Hodge has been batting against the legspin legend in the nets. "He's still got the old tricks," was his assessment.

Tonight he'll be up against former Australian speedster Shaun Tait.

Wellington respect Hodge's abilities.

"He's a dynamic, smart T20 cricketer," Wellington coach Jamie Siddons said. "We're all a bit wary of him."


Wellington v Auckland
Wellington, 7pm tonight

Wellington: Grant Elliott (c), Michael Papps, Michael Pollard, Jesse Ryder, Luke Ronchi, Cameron Borgas, Harry Boam, Luke Woodcock, Dane Hutchinson, Shaun Tait, Andy McKay, Scott Kuggeleijn.

Auckland: Gareth Hopkins (c), Lou Vincent, Craig Cachopa, Brad Hodge, Colin de Grandhomme, Dusan Hakaraia, Colin Munro, Bruce Martin, Lockie Ferguson, Michael Bates, Mitchell McClenaghan, Bhupinder Singh.

Top T20 batsmen
Most runs in T20 cricket:
David Hussey (Australia): 190 games, 4670 runs, average 31.34, strike rate 135.63

Brad Hodge (Australia) 158, 4500, 35.43, 127.8
Brendon McCullum (NZ) 154, 4413, 32.21, 135.11
Chris Gayle (West Indies) 117 4332, 44.2, 155.10.