The mathematics is pretty elementary if you're William Young crunching the numbers before the Central Districts Stags face the Otago Volts in Dunedin from today.

"If you get three wins out of five in your first five games then you put yourself [in a good position]," says Young before he captains the rampant Stags into round four of the four-day Plunket Shield clash against the Volts.

The Heinrich Malan-coached CD are second on the domestic table, 15 points behind the Wellington Firebirds who are on a dream start of three consecutive outright wins.

The Volts are third on equal 25 points with defending champions Canterbury as the latter come off an outright lost to CD and face the Firebirds at the Basin Reserve.


The Auckland Aces (24 points) travel to Seddon Park to play the last-placed Northern Districts Knights (17 points), the only side yet to claim an outright victory.

The Stags will be routinely expected to tick off the box against the Volts this week on the way to a mouth-watering clash against Wellington to give a clearer picture of who should be the first-class champions but Young and his gallant troops know better then to get ahead of themselves.

The 24-year-old New Plymouth batsman sees the pack mentality of the four seamers and left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel on the platform of batsmen also posting bolshy totals on the scoreboard.

"The batting and the bowling are complementing each other nicely."

Young says the outright result against the Kings in Christchurch last week sums up the resolve of the Stags this summer.

"They have won the shield in three of the past four [seasons] so to do that is pretty incredible and to do it before lunch on the last day definitely shows how well the boys are going.

"To be honest, we still had to take 20 wickets on a tough pitch and that shows the confidence of the bowlers," he says, adding it was a nice toss to win and bat first.

The undefeated CD are enjoying a purple patch, far removed from the ritual of the middle-order batsmen catching a free-falling top order in innings.

Former Black Cap Jesse Ryder leads the batting top 10 list with 370 runs after missing out on four consecutive centuries by 11 runs in the last round.

Newbie Brad Schmulian, who made a 203 runs on debut in the opening round against ND, is third on 313 runs while veteran opener Greg Hay is on fourth-equal on 269 runs with Anton Devcich, of ND.

CD wicketkeeper Dane Cleaver rounds off in 10th place on the ladder with 216 runs.

Young reckons Malan's investment in keeping predominantly the same group of batsmen through a development structure over the past three seasons is coming to fruition.

"It comes with experience but it's hard to say how everyone in the batting order is going so well but Heinrich deserves a lot of credit on how the team is ticking along now."

Last season's highest wicket taker in the red-ball format, Patel, is fourth-equal with Otago's Neil Wagner and Canterbury's rookie spinner, Blake Coburn, on 14 wickets.

Two-match Black Cap Seth Rance and fellow seamer Blair Tickner join Scott Kuggeleijn (ND) with 12 scalps each to round off the bowling top 10 front runners.

Aces speed merchant Lockie Ferguson leads the race on 19 wickets.

Young is mindful Otago are a dangerous side in any format and at any stage of a competition.

"They've got experience, they've got X factor this year," he says expecting the hosts to rebound after a win and two losses.

Black Cap test seamer Wagner, Jimmy Neesham, Hamish Rutherford, Neil Broom and spinner Mark Craig are among key players forming the nucleus of the Volts' campaign.

However, Young says all the teams boast similar credentials so CD won't be treating any of them differently.

Black Caps Ross Taylor, Adam Milne and Tom Bruce are back in the mix today.

"It's an exciting opportunity for the boys to mix with the Black Caps," says Malan, appreciating the value added to CD through experience.

Out go CD seamers Doug Bracewell, Seth Rance and Bevan Small as well as rookie batsman Brad Schmulian.

Taranaki seamer Ryan Watson will make his first-class debut if he plays but he is likely to carry the drinks at the University Oval, looking at the star-studded line up.

It's a good time for the Black Caps to find traction with the red ball in preparation for the test matches and for the Stags with international aspirations to engage and learn.

Bracewell is resting after a knee reconstruction surgery as part of his rehab.
Small is nursing an injury while two-match Black Cap Rance has had a scan and is awaiting results.

"It's part and parcel of bowling and we're just trying to make our way through that."

Schmulian, despite a fairytale start, is simply making way for the internationals but the fresh talent will be back in Heinrich's reckoning once the seasoned campaigners depart.

Otago coach Rob Walter has made only one change in a side whose top-order batsmen are grappling with their demons.

Seamer Matt Bacon, the former Wellington Firebirds speed merchant, replaces Warren Barnes in the 12.

Walter has decided to rest injury-prone Barnes, who is fit other than "one or two aches and pains", according to the Otago Daily Times.

He also made a strong first-class debut, picking up six wickets in the 135-run loss to the Auckland Aces in the last round of the shield match.

"We've obviously got a lot of limited-overs cricket coming up where he is going to be an integral part," Walter said.

Bacon, 24, is a former CD age-group player from Levin.

For a change, the weather is looking good and shouldn't be a factor.

However, pitch curator Mike Davies and his staff have worked overtime to have the wicket ready for the shield game after fears a few months ago it looked like mission impossible.

Davies told Otago Daily Times he had sacrificed the pace and bounce of last summer to produce pitches that would suit both slow and fast bowlers.

To achieve that, the grass is left thicker and longer in the middle of the pitch where the seamers typically hit the deck and thinned and cut shorter at the ends to provide slower some traction.


OTAGO VOLTS: Hamish Rutherford, Brad Wilson, Rob Nicol (c), Neil Broom, Jimmy Neesham, Derek de Boorder (wk), Anaru Kitchen, Mark Craig, Neil Wagner, Michael Rae, Matthew Bacon, Jacob Duffy.
Coach: Rob Walter.

CD STAGS: Greg Hay, George Worker, Ross Taylor, William Young (c), Jesse Ryder, Tom Bruce, Dane Cleaver (wk), Adam Milne, Ajaz Patel, Navin Patel, Blair Tickner, Ryan Watson.
Coach: Heinrich Malan.