At the pedestrian crossing of Central Districts Stags' road to redemption tomorrow, Tom Bruce will veer off the collective course to the Black Caps camp for the T20 international while Jesse Ryder eases back into the busy domestic lane.

Veteran Ryder missed the previous round's 17-run loss to the Canterbury Kings in Rangiora, near Christchurch, last Friday to leave the Stags with one win and two losses in the Burger King Super Smash twenty20 campaign this summer.

"He's a world-class player, you know. Whenever Jesse plays he's feared in terms of what he brings to the game from the opposition's perspective so that'll relieve some pressure on where he bats," says CD coach Heinrich Malan before the William Young-captained Stags face the table-topping Northern Districts Knights in round four in a televised match at the Bay Oval, Mt Maunganui, from 7.10pm tomorrow.

Malan says the 32-year-old former Black Cap, who was relocating last week after selling his house in Wellington and buying one in Napier, is looking forward to returning to the fold as he slipped to second place on 138 runs on the leaderboard.

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ND wicketkeeper/batsman Tim Seifert is the leader on 159 runs while third-placed English international import for the Kings, Ben Stokes, has returned home due to "family reasons".

Malan says everyone has lost at least one game in the six-team competition and all it'll take is a win or two to be in reckoning.

He is mindful teams have overseas imports and ND have brought in allrounder Chris Jordan, who didn't score many runs but claimed two scalps in the don't-argue 106-run victory over Otago Volts at Seddon Park, Hamilton, on Saturday.

"But we have said that before - to be successful in any campaign you have to beat any team on any day and that's what we try to do," he says, accepting the CD Cricket stance of banking on home-grown talent without the luxury of beefing up skill sets in a particular facet of play.

Entertaining an import will require him to fit into the Stags' culture although, he is mindful, it often comes with a price tag.

All that, he emphasises, mustn't detract from CD's efforts to prepare graduands for Black Caps honours.

In conducting a post-mortem examination in CD's loss at Mainpower Oval, Malan feels the mid-term report card highlights the need for incremental improvements.

"Even in saying we bowled okay we still gave away 20 to 25 runs with a little bit of sloppy fielding and we didn't execute as well as we should have in closing out our overs," says Malan.

He believes, with the bat, the Stags kept in touch throughout the chase but every time they thought they were ahead they crucially lost a wicket.

"We got ourselves into a position where we really needed someone to dig deep to get across the line for us but we came up short."

Malan says the emergence of lower-order batsmen espousing bullish tendencies haven't just sprung up suddenly but is something that has been in the making through winter.

Wicketkeeper Dane Cleaver again showed against the Kings that he is adept in facing the new ball, regardless of which format it is, with 30 runs in Ryder's absence while seamer Bevan Small is making similar noises after an unbeaten 20 runs from 15 balls at No 8.

"It's something we've spoken about a lot and he wants do and worked pretty hard on over winter so we're not surprised that he's gone up the order and is relatively successful," he says of Cleaver.

With Ryder returning, Malan says, it'll give CD some options.

Part of the Stags' preparation has been to ensure there's accountability at Nos 6-8 where the likes of Joshua Clarkson, Cleaver, Ben Wheeler, Doug Bracewell and retired Marty Kain had won games with meaningful contributions.

"More often than not you've got to bat there for eight or nine an over for long period of time so it requires special skills and a lot of hard work goes into it."

In that vein, Malan is hoping a gungho Small and those of his ilk will keep on keeping on.

The Manawatu bowler had Stokes' measure twice in back-to-back games but Malan says in some respects it's just another ball from the Stag.

"I'm sure that Bevan will be the first one to say he'll give back both those wickets for the team to win a game," he says, stressing individual performances surface but team goals supersede that.

Back from injury, opening batsman Ben Smith was "unlucky" to be dismissed for a duck on Friday.

"He's a senior player and he's been around the block a couple of times and has a good record so he'll get another opportunity and, hopefully, he'll make the most of it."

Having lost key batsmen every game or so, Malan says even without "wanting to be funky" they have had to reshuffle the batting order.

"At the end of the day it's about making sure we have a game plan more so than worrying statistically about people's roles."

The top six batsmen are under no illusions about how they need to go about accumulating runs for the first 12 overs to provide a platform for some power hitting from the farewell committee.

"That's probably one thing we haven't done as well this [season] as we did last [season] is that we've really stuck to our guns in terms of our blueprint and how we want to play."

First-change seamer Blair Tickner stepped up with aplomb with the new ball in the absence of Black Cap Seth Rance but ND also boast Anton Devcich who got a career-best 4-12 on Saturday.

"Ticks has gone the full circle now ... he bowls with skills, variation and speed on placid wickets so, slowly but surely, he's beginning to push into contention with the big dogs," he says of Ruahine Motors Central Hawke's Bay premier club cricketer Tickner who sits on equal second place of highest wicket takers with four others, including Devcich and ND legspinner Ish Sodhi.

BOTH TEAMS

ND KNIGHTS: Dean Brownlie (c), Brent Arnel, Peter Bocock, Anton Devcich, Daniel Flynn, Brett Hampton, Chris Jordan (import), Nick Kelly, Daryl Mitchell, Brett Randell, Tim Seifert (wk), Ish Sodhi.

CD STAGS: Ben Smith, Jesse Ryder, William Young (c), Dane Cleaver (wk), Joshua Clarkson, Christian Leopard, Ben Wheeler, Bevan Small, Ryan McCone, Ajaz Patel, Navin Patel, Blair Tickner.

Note: With major associations imposing embargos until midday on match days, both teams may differ in composition.