Have a chuckle if you must but Seth Rance seriously reckons the Central Districts Stags high-twitch-fibre boys will have be looking over their shoulders after returning from their New Zealand A stint in the United Arab Emirates this month.

"Yes, it's going to be strange when they come back because obviously we've got some classy batsmen but these young boys are going to be keeping them on their toes," says Rance as the Stags, under the tutelage of interim CD coach Ben Smith, of England, prepare to play the Auckland Aces in round two of the four-day Plunket Shield match at Eden Park outer oval from this morning.

CD are coming off an emphatic 145-run victory over the Canterbury Kings in round one when rain robbed them of two days of play at Saxton Oval, Nelson, last Saturday.

The Stags, under new skipper Greg Hay, were without five marquee players who are on the UAE tour with CD coach Heinrich Malan while Smith, a former representative, deputises for the South African mentor.


The defending champions, keeping their unblemished record intact from last season, are without the services of batsmen William Young, Tom Bruce and George Worker, as well as bowlers Ajaz Patel and Blair Tickner.

CD gained the services of New Zealand batting great Ross Taylor, who laid down the platform with 75 runs with wicketkeeper Dane Cleaver (56 runs), before lower-order newbies Willem Ludick and Christian Leopard took over with a milestone unbeaten 116 runs and 52, respectively.

However, Taylor is unavailable today. Allrounder Joshua Clarkson displaces Navin Patel and Black Cap seamer Adam Milne comes into the 12.

Rance says the ability of the young guns to slot seamlessly into the equation of first-class cricket speaks volumes of how far CD have come in nurturing talent to build stocks.

That the Cantabrians' tail wagged in the opening round is fair indication that the major association sides have consciously tailored teams to reflect allround portfolios, something the Stags are blessed with because of foresight on the part of Malan and his stable of coaches and selectors.

While Hay didn't contribute with any runs, he says, the adroit 34-year-old batsman led the team with aplomb despite a few jangled nerves on his home turf.

New CD Stags skipper Greg Hay (right) talks to Firebirds counterpart Michael Bracewell last summer. Photo/Photosport
New CD Stags skipper Greg Hay (right) talks to Firebirds counterpart Michael Bracewell last summer. Photo/Photosport

Black Caps white ball seamer Rance juxtaposed Hay with someone of the ilk of India captain Virat Kohli to show batsmen can boast high averages and still assume the mantle of captaincy, so he doesn't expect Hay's contribution to fall this summer.

The 31-year-old swing merchant is expecting the Aucklanders to offer a stern test today at an outer oval which offers its own share of challenges with twenty20-like boundaries.


"We'll have to get their Black Caps batsmen out nice and early with a side that also play good, solid cricket so it should be a good game."

It's early days but Ludick, 21, is setting the pace in the red-ball format, sitting a run above Otago Volts batsman Hamish Rutherford (115 runs) while Auckland's Black Caps test opener, Jeet Raval, is third on 102 runs.

Rance sits two wickets fewer in second place, below Volts seamer Neil Wagner's seven scalps after the southerners' eight-wicket loss to the Northern Districts Knights last week.

The Greytown Fire Brigade station officer claimed 5-53 from 20 overs in the opening round, emulating the feat of his last match in the 2017-18 season early this year.

The Cantabrians host the Knights at Hagley Oval, near Christchurch, and the Wellington Firebirds welcome the Volts at the Basin Reserve in the capital city in the other two matches today.

Crisp, sunny springy days are forecast for Auckland although there's a threat of the odd shower tomorrow, which means a result is imminent.

CD STAGS: Greg Hay (c), Ben S Smith, Brad Schmulian, Dane Cleaver (w), Doug Bracewell, Willem Ludick, Christian Leopard, Ryan McCone, Seth Rance, Felix Murray, Joshua Clarkson, Adam Milne.
Coach: Ben F Smith.

AUCKLAND ACES: Michael Guptill-Bunce (c), Jeet Raval, Sean Solia, Robbie O'Donnell, Graeme Beghin, Finn Allen, Ben Horne (w), Matt McEwan, Will Somerville, Ben Lister, Danru Ferns, Raja Sandhu.
Coach: Mark O'Donnell.