They got on the University of Otago Oval in Dunedin as players but, ironically, the Central Districts Stags will become spectators for at least a day to find out how proceedings unfold in the Super Smash Twenty20 competition.
CD skipper Tom Bruce won the toss but electing to pad up backfired when they could only muster 139/6 in their allotted 20 overs, crumbling to a nine-wicket loss to the Otago Volts on Saturday.
Dane Cleaver, at first drop, was CD's top scorer with 42 runs from 31 balls before describing the wicket as a two-paced one that, surprisingly, had variable bounce.
Opener George Worker again showed promise with 24 from 32 balls but didn't hang around, triggering a cluster of power-hitter dismissals with Bruce (3), Kieran Noema-Barnett (7) and Joshua Clarkson (14) falling on a wicket that demanded patience from a fast-post format.
Anaru Kitchen was the chief destroyer with 2-22 and the most frugal of the five-pronged Otago bowling attack. Jacob Duffy, Matthew Bacon, Michael Rippon and Michael Rae claimed one each although Rae took some stick.
Unlike their victorious Otago Sparks women who had played before them, the Volts didn't let complacency creep in after overhauling the target with 141/1 with 15 balls still left in the bank.
Openers Hamish Rutherford and Neil Broom took the innings by the scruff of the neck although the latter underwent a concussion test after failing to get hold of a rib tickler from CD opening seamer Ben Wheeler. The ball jagged up to hit him in the grill on the last ball of the second over.
However, Broom had enough presence of mind not to disturb his polished furniture and receive a green light on his uppercut to post 34 from 26 deliveries before Noema-Barnett trapped him lbw with one of his never-arriving balls.
All the talk — and rightly so — was about test spinner Ajaz Patel facing India here when the tourists arrive later this month but veteran Rutherford also was making a statement, albeit in the most abbreviated format.
The 31-year-old former test opener was unbeaten on 81 runs from 54 balls, including eight boundaries and three sixes, to justifiably pick up the game changer award.
"We didn't really know what the surface was going to do but once we realised what was going on we adjusted nicely to put on a clinical performance," said Rutherford, the son of former New Zealand test captain Ken Rutherford, who former Black Caps coaches hadn't persisted with after he had lost some form in the international red-ball arena.
The ultimate diplomat, he played down his "lucky" knock to players thriving on different surfaces on different occasions.
TV commentator Lesley Murdoch replied: "I think lucky is being very modest but you always seem to get the team off to a good, fast start that's important in T20."
Rutherford put it down to fulfilling his portfolio before lauding Broom and former You Travel Taradale CC premier men's club cricketer, Dean Foxcroft, unbeaten on 22 from 25 balls, for forging educated partnerships.
"As always, in every form of cricket, they [partnerships] are important [so] we had two quality partnerships today," he said.
CD opening seamers Seth Rance and left-armer Wheeler, playing his milestone 50th domestic T20, took some stick to finish above 10 an over. Noema-Barnett's 1-15 from three overs was the most frugal.
Of the wicket-less bunch, seamer Blair Tickner was the next best at 6.5 an over and left-arm spinner Worker went at sevens, also from two overs. Patel started with dots and ones, including one four, before Rutherford picked him out for a six in his third over, to finish at 7.75 an over.
While the Aldin Smith-coached Stags will sweat on the outcomes of the table-topping Wellington Firebirds-Auckland Aces match (among others to be played) at the Basin Reserve on Sunday from 4.10pm, the Duffy-skippered Volts will be twiddling their thumbs to see if they can secure a home eliminator final on Friday next week.