No number of throw downs or amount of arm rolling in the nets to find that magical space between ball and stump is going to make much difference to the Central Districts Stags in New Plymouth today.

What is going to matter, though, is finding that all-important space between the ears before the televised one-day Ford Trophy domestic men's grand final cricket match against the Auckland Aces begins at 11am at the compact Pukekura Park.

That the Heinrich Malan-coached side are teeming with talent and oozing with confidence is indisputable.

But the mind has a way of playing up when you don't want it to, especially when the body is conditioned with muscle memory.


CD captain William Young and his cohorts won't need reminding from Malan that it is the mind that makes the body. The trick, of course, is to create ample space in some corner of the mind to fill it with meditative matter.

Clearing the clutter, as it were, will be imperative in today's game although they will argue that should be par for course right through the four-day Plunket Shield campaign post-one-day grand final.

Will the voices in the head take the CD boys back to Seddon Park, Hamilton, on Sunday, January 21, when the Northern Districts Knights won the Burger King Super Smash Twenty20 grand final to the humbling tune of a nine-wicket victory.

However, the manner in which the green army has marched on since then into the limited-overs campaign suggests that the days of fretting are well and truly over.

It is something hired specialist CD bowling coach Jacob Oram, a former Black Cap and Stag, as well as allrounder Joshua Clarkson had alluded to in rounds four and five of the Ford Trophy last month.

For Malan, his men have played some good cricket for the past few seasons, which included T20 and one-day finals.

"There's obviously a big outcome at the end of the game but it's not about focusing on that [today] because we have six weeks of cricket left and we're in a good position in the other format [first class] as well," he says before the 11am start today.

The emphasis, says the South African coach, who should be a front runner for the Black Caps job should it become vacant, has to be on consistency rather than one season-defining result.


When juxtaposing T20 with Ford Trophy, Malan says the longer white-ball format allows the players to define parameters on what they want to do in specific overs of the game rather than a wham-bam-thank-you-mam approach of the hit-and-giggles mould.

"In Twenty20 there isn't that much time to actually make sure you get all that stuff across the line so your senior players become so much more important."

Unlike the boom-and-bust nature of T20, the one-dayers demand a division of labour where specialists will need to step up to ensure they remain on the fast track of success.

"In saying that, it's great to see different players throughout the Ford Trophy campaign stepping up at different stages."

CD Stags coach Heinrich Malan says formulating plans and executing them is imperative grand final, or not. Photo/file
CD Stags coach Heinrich Malan says formulating plans and executing them is imperative grand final, or not. Photo/file

It hasn't missed Malan's attention that not too many Stags feature in the top five batting and bowling batting honours so that can only mean CD truly exude the virtues of a collective campaign.

"It just shows that, from a team perspective, quite a few guys who can win games so that's exciting."

However, the mantra in the changing rooms is for the batsmen to lather their willows with linseed oil and pummel it with their mallets for some lucrative returns in the denomination of runs.

Ditto the spittle shiners.

"If someone wants to be selfish, from a personal perspective, to post some runs on the scoreboard or take some big wickets it'll also definitely benefit the team in the outcome should we play some good cricket."

On paper, the team has no flaws as such — just players having an off day, which, any rational person will accept as a given.

He touches on how, in the round seven three-wicket victory over the Wellington Firebirds, the Stags bowlers took ownership when the batsmen forgot their tools in the changing sheds at the Basin Reserve.

"That's always going to happen along the way in white-ball cricket but as long as we can win 65 to 75 per cent of our games everyone's got to chip in if you want to remain consistent."

The most pleasing aspect of all that is the emergence of game changers or breakers but, in the journey from boys to men, his crop of players have to show the incremental gains have been crucial in moulding a tensile template.

"We've mentioned we've got into similar positions over the last couple of years where, in some stages, we have got across the line and in others we haven't so if we can get out there and put a consistent performance on the board we can finish the white-ball campaign on a high note."

Malan labels Pukekura Park a "strange ground" but that hasn't stopped them from playing quality cricket.

"Even though we play there quite a lot it feels like a strange ground because their people get hit or our people get hit so, at the end of the day, it's about understanding what your plan is and executing it."

The wicket, after Cyclone Gita left her calling card this week, will be of major interest to both teams.

However, he stresses in the quest to be the cricketers on the apex of the domestic men's mound there should be credentials all round to ensure they are capable of taming any surface against any opposition.

"You've got to be able to formulate plans and try to execute so, I suppose, that's the key part of everything we've been doing ... "

Black Cap seamer Ben Wheeler is the only change to the 13-man line up with Bevan Small making way.


CD STAGS: William Young (c), George Worker, Ben Smith, Jesse Ryder, Tom Bruce, Dane Cleaver (wk), Doug Bracewell, Ben Wheeler, Adam Milne, Joshua Clarkson, Seth Rance, Ajaz Patel, Blair Tickner.

AUCKLAND ACES: Craig Cachopa (c), Finn Allen, Michael Barry, Graeme Beghin, Jamie Brown, Lockie Ferguson, Donovan Grobbelaar, Ben Horne, Matt McEwan, Tarun Nethula, Glenn Phillips (wk), Jeet Raval, Sean Solia.