The Super Smash Twenty20 crown is tangible evidence that bucks do learn in the transition to eventually becoming fully-fledged Stags, according to Central Districts coach Heinrich Malan.

"If you look at the way the surface played, it was similar to the one we played on last year," said Malan yesterday after the Tom Bruce-captained Stags came of age to clinch the Burger Kings-sponsored T20 domestic title at Seddon Park, Hamilton, where CD had capitulated for 98-8 runs in the nine-wicket grand final against the Northern Districts Knights in 2018.

"Obviously we have learned from the way we played there a year ago in the final from a similar surface where you can see the bowlers step up to execute their individual skills in understanding what they needed to do on that day, which is different to a McLean Park [Napier] wicket for example," he said after the Stags beat the Knights by 67 runs on Sunday.

Remarkably, the Green Army masterminded the victory on what was a paltry total of 147-8 in 20 overs, after Bruce had won the toss and elected to pad up, albeit on a wicket he and ND counterpart Dean Brownlie felt "wasn't easy".


The two sides had rolled out 16 big dogs on the park between them with current and former international experience although you wonder if the hosts were left pondering if they should have stuck with their true-and-tried squad who had brought them that far.

Bruce had rotated his bowlers adroitly as the game ebbed and flowed during the Knights' run chase as CD tried to chuck the monkey off their back after two losing grand finals.

They came into the Sunday decider as the third qualifiers after overwhelming the second-placed Auckland Aces by 44 runs — on the platform of batsmen amassing 219-4 — in the eliminator final at Eden Park outer oval last Friday night.

CD batsman Dean Foxcroft takes time to get his eye in for a match-defining innings for the Stags in the grand final-winning match against the ND Knights on Sunday. Photo/Photosport
CD batsman Dean Foxcroft takes time to get his eye in for a match-defining innings for the Stags in the grand final-winning match against the ND Knights on Sunday. Photo/Photosport

On Sunday, You Travel Taradale CC cricketer Dean Foxcroft carved up 63 runs from 50 deliveries, including seven boundaries and two sixes.

It was a sharp turnaround for Foxcroft who had scored only four runs against the Aces on Friday but fastened his seatbelt when season's hero, opener William Young, had departed for a two-ball duck on Sunday.

"Deano played really well," said Malan. "I think he showed that even though it's a tough surface to play on if you spend some time out there you can play your way in a bid to score some runs."

The CD blueprint was simple — one of the four in the top order needed to dig in his toes to bat deep into the 12th to 13th over, which tended to enable one or two cameos to blossom around him.

The 20-year-old, who arrived in Napier with South African age-group international pedigree three summers ago because chances were limited due to the racial quota system in his birth country, was that batsman in the grand final.


Echoing similar sentiments, Bruce said: "He's obviously been brilliant for us throughout the summer so he's been one hell of a find."

The captain said to have the composure to build an innings on the premium T20 stage was a snapshot of Foxcroft's great character.

"[He's] one hell of a player so I'm really proud for him. Deano batted incredibly well," Bruce said of the newbie who played some educated cricket shots in a format that demands maniacal split personality to find the boundary rope.

However, even the most ardent Stags supporters would have had to concede they would have harboured the here-you-go-again feeling before the CD bowling attack of five would have had them jumping off the couch and punching the air while watching the match live on TV in their lounge.

If the Knights' six bowlers hadn't gone over the 10-an-over mark than the Stags trio of Doug Bracewell, Blair Tickner and Adam Milne had raised the bars to under five an over.

Milne, back from a pre-Christmas injury, took 3-12 from 2.4 overs while test spinner Ajaz Patel claimed 3-24 from three overs. Opener Seth Rance took 1-21 from three overs.

Bruce was reluctant to single out any player but the man-of-the-match performance belonged to Black Caps toiler Bracewell who claimed 2-10 from three overs, including a wicket maiden, although many of them played pivotal roles in the match.

He also took three catches, Young two and wicketkeeper Dane Cleaver two on a day when ND gloveman Tim Seifert claimed a record-equalling four in the format.

You somehow got the impression the CD bowlers could have stifled any team to under 100 runs, as the Knights capitulated for 80 with 32 balls to ponder what-ifs.

"We had to make a tough call with four seamers in the morning and we had five available so Ben [Wheeler] was left out," Malan said, when injured T20 Black Caps newbie Blair Tickner was deemed fit to play on Sunday morning after missing the Friday affair.

"It shows the strength of our seamers if you have to leave out someone of Ben's calibre, who is a Black Cap and a proven performer when you pick the right form for that sort of surface so, luckily, we got it right."

Ruahine Motors Central Hawke's Bay CC cricketer Tickner took 1-11 from three overs to sit just below Bracewell's 3.33 an over on 3.67.

Allrounder Joshua Clarkson, who had also injured his groin that day in the nets, failed the test but watched from the sidelines.

In all seriousness, New Zealand coach Gary Stead and national convenor of selectors Gavin Larsen should have had their iPads out to take notes on Sunday in nutting out their ICC World Cup squad to England from May to July. The reasoning, obviously, that if the ANZ T20 series against India was part of the equation than this T20 was certainly a better yardstick than any the Banga Boys could provide in their three-match ODI, with two one-sided affairs mercifully gone.

The CD Stags have a massive group hug at the centre of Seddon Park, Hamilton, after clinching the Burger King Super Smash grand final on Sunday. Photo/Photosport
The CD Stags have a massive group hug at the centre of Seddon Park, Hamilton, after clinching the Burger King Super Smash grand final on Sunday. Photo/Photosport

But what is it about CD and ND — the most scattered of the six major associations — producing international calibre cricketers over the years?

"It's an interesting one. When you look at people they come from far and wide over those two districts ... who over a number of years have produced a good crop of internationals so it's hard to put a finger on it," said the South African mentor, impressed with how the T20 domestic competition had evolved into a robust tournament.

"The standard's really high so if people can perform at this level than, like they've shown for the Black Caps, too, it's a good omen for the competition for people to step up to the international stage and perform straight away."

He reiterated CD Cricket's stance on not recruiting imports, unless they were of the calibre of former Stags batsman Mahela Jayawardene, Kevin Pieterson or Chris Gayle but instead develop its homegrown talent.

"Getting a pro for the sake of one, we believe, there isn't any need for that."

It was pleasing to see the Stags repay that faith in CD.

The defending Plunket Shield champions are on track to regain their crown as the 2018-19 leaders when they play the Canterbury Kings in Christchurch on Thursday.