No matter how foolproof a blueprint, it is sometimes never enough to ward off pressure in a tumultuous sporting arena.

Those who are adroit quickly come to the realisation it's pointless fighting it — instead, they tend to feed off pressure by turning it into a motivational tool.

"For me it was just a bit more positivity," says Central Districts bowler Ajaz Patel, revealing he had had a heart-to-heart session with Stags coach Heinrich Malan about expressing himself a little more this week.

"The nature of twenty20 is that you see hype in everything so there's a bit more pressure so, especially in that last game, it was about taking all that pressure away to enjoy it and having more fun," says Patel, after CD beat the Northern Districts Knights by 49 runs in Mount Maunganui on Wednesday but then reload against them in round five of the Burger King Super Smash T20 match at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, today.


That extends to the 29-year-old spinner establishing a rapport with captain William Young at the bowling crease to ensure he is able to tweak field placements but still following the script so that "everyone's on the same page".

"We have a good relationship where we can bounce ideas off each other and that's what you want from a captain.

"At the end of the day you're the one bowling the ball so it's pretty clear we have one super say on what we want but, obviously, the captain can override that if required," says Patel who feels he and Young have done that well in the four-day Plunket Shield and Ford Trophy competitions but are trying to achieve that in T20 as well.

He claimed 2-24 from four overs although Ruahine Motors Central Hawke's Bay seamer Blair Tickner was the top wicket taker with 4-24, including sitting on a hat-trick, from as many overs.

Despite losing their first one-day Ford Trophy game at a compact Pukekura Park, the You Travel Taradale CC premier club cricketer believes they have measured their run-ups often enough on their home turf to tank up on confidence in their first T20 clash there this summer.

"I guess we're fortunate that we've played so many games here that we know the ins and outs of the place and how to go about our business so we're looking forward to it and enjoying it at a great venue."

The Aucklander says Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui looked deceptively compact but, in reality, it's a decent-sized ground.

"It was just [on Wednesday] because the wicket was placed on one side of the ground where a side was shorter and the other longer."


Patel reveals bowlers are under no illusions that they'll come in for some attention in the format to the tune of at least 9 to 10 runs an over.

"It's about adapting and understanding what the surface is like and what's a beautiful target in mind."

CD pride themselves on taking wickets, which was evident in the win over the Knights, to the extent that restricting the run rate automatically takes care of itself.

"If we can do that it kind of doesn't matter which side of the ground it is, we can peg things back."

With fresh batsmen coming in at relatively regular intervals, he says, the bowlers are able to shift the burden of pressure on those wielding the willow.

"It's pretty hard to take wickets by restricting so you have to be attacking and always looking at taking wickets. If you do that it's the best [form] of defence, really."

With fellow new-ball merchant Ben Wheeler taking some stick against ND, Patel's spin bamboozled ND opening batsman Anton Devcich to rattle his furniture before another delivery beat captain Dean Brownlie, at first drop, with the most subtle of turns. CD wicketkeeper Dane Cleaver's mastery came into play as he scooped to take the bails off.

In the shortest form of the domestic game five or six extras can be too many but he agrees, pending Malan's post mortem after the previous ND game, that 14 extras, including nine wides, borders on cricketing sin.

"It's something we've got to improve on as bowlers and our unit, especially, is hard on [it] so they'll be aware of it individually and know they can execute better but I don't think it's a train wreck or something to worry about too much."

A mutual appreciation of what the CD batsmen brought to the park isn't lost on the bowlers either in a game where the willow whackers' feat almost always supersedes other contributions.

"It's really good to see different people contributing as well at different times."

However, that is not to say the Stags are trying to minimise the x-factor that opening batsman Jesse Ryder brings with his mere presence at the crease, never mind the authority with which he assumes the mantle of crease occupier.

The relief on the faces of opposition bowlers is evident the second Ryder's dismissed but there's an inkling that the 32-year-old former Black Caps left-hander is due for a big one before the dust settles in Super Smash.

"He's been amazing for us all season — his attitude, the way he goes about and he's very passionate so he goes out there and gives it his everything.

"He's been fantastic and he gives us a great start, especially in twenty20, so the guys kind of take that momentum he creates and jump on to the back of it," says Patel.

That doesn't detract from the contributions of fellow opening batsman Ben Smith, Young, Cleaver, Joshua Clarkson and newbie Christian Leopard, of Napier.

Perhaps Young's knock tends to become understated in a format where shots over the ropes are compared to the sponsor's "whopping" fast-food products but underlying his innings is a reassuring sense of wicket suaveness and composure.

"You don't realise he's actually scoring almost two to three runs a ball without making it look like he's smashing the ball all over the park so I think Young does that really well," he says, impressing that the skipper is adept at ticking over singles and puts the bad ball away when the opportunity arises.

"He's class, Youngy, and all of us in the squad know he's talented so it's good to watch him bat and how he goes about his business because he's very professional in his demeanour and that's cool."

Patel says the 200-plus percentagers of Clarkson and Big Barrel Napier Technical Old Boys allrounder Leopard had forged a batting alliance from the time they were CD and national under-19 representatives so the middle-order strike-rate boys are lapping up that sense of nostalgia.

"Once again Josh showed his ability to strike that clean ball," he says, believing the time out on the crease gave him the composure to open his arms a little to trust his prowess as opposed to coming in the death overs to just launch.

Leopard's French cuts, calls and running between the wicket all add up to a bolshy score at the back end.

The Stags' campaign will intensify with the return of Black Caps opening batsman George Worker. Seamer Navin Patel, also of Manawatu, drops out of the squad but that'll mean season debutant Leopard may end up running out the snake lollies.

The top shield wicket taker in the country for the past two seasons, Patel has enjoyed his start to this season in all formats.

The left-arm orthodox spinner has adapted from red ball to white ball as well as T20.

"I cherish the opportunities because I've worked a long time to play all three formats so I'm really enjoying myself and playing my cricket. It's only going to help me get better and improve my skills."

No doubt he is pleased that he's come under the radar of Black Caps coach Mike Hesson and convenor of selectors Gavin Larsen in the shield competition.

"It is quite nice but, at the same time, I try not to get too carried away and I try to kind of focus on the present to do what I need to do now and let everything else take care of itself."

He intends to remain faithful to CD and hope the national selectors are taking note.

While they had beaten Canterbury Kings first up at Saxton Oval, Nelson, and then tripped up in the back-to-back encounter at Mainpower Oval, Rangiora, Patel doesn't envisage the Stags will stumble again.

The mindset is to treat every game as a clean slate although they do reflect on previous encounters to embrace what works and adjust or eliminate what isn't desirable.

"Overall, I think it was a damn good performance from the batters and the bowlers so, yeah, we'll take a bit of confidence out of that but I don't think the squad will become complacent in thinking it'll be easy. The thing with twenty20 cricket is that you've got to turn up on any day."

Not too keen on banking on the weather, Patel takes heart in a bright outlook at Puke Park where the Stags are hoping the picnic-basket lugging faithful will turn out in droves today.

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 (wkt), Josef Walker.

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

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