Twenty20 cricket is a lottery at the best of times but it'll be a tragedy if the Super Smash eliminator final evolves into a lucky dip because of rain in Auckland today.

"We'd definitely like to play 20 overs to see who's the better team on the day because you need that to express yourself so that'll be the dream result whatever else is thrown at us," says Central Districts Stags seamer Ben Wheeler before the Burger King-sponsored T20 do-or-die televised clash against the Auckland Aces at Eden Park outer oval from 4.10pm with no reserve day allocated if the elements dictate terms.

Wheeler says the Heinrich Malan-coached Stags will still prepare as if it's a full game but also factor in the possibility of a super over if there's a gargantuan odds of a tie in the sudden-death playoff between No 2 Aces and No 3 Stags.

If weather prevents the completion of the game then the hosts will proceed to the final against the Northern Districts Knights in Hamilton on Saturday.


However, the CD new-ball seamer is mindful the outfield dries pretty smartly at Eden Park so there should be some sort of closure over something they cannot control. There's a forecast of "often cloudy" and "a few showers turning to rain in the evening" amid strong northeasterlies.

"If there's a super over or something I'm sure the boys will be fired up for that."

CD have had their share of disruptions through the revolving door of selection for several players to international honours but Wheeler says the 2016-17 losing finalists to the Wellington Firebirds have given themselves a chance to have another crack this season.

T20 is one of those games where a team may play well and lose and not play well but win.

"You can have a guy who can win the game for you or vice versa, win the game against you ... so the guys are trying to hit their straps.

"It's finals time now and anything can happen so [today], hopefully, we can come out on top."

The 26-year-old from Blenheim, who is based in Hawke's Bay, says it's disappointing the Stags didn't receive enough coverage from Sky TV this season and puts it down to it is what it is.

Despite beating the Firebirds in their last two outings, Wheeler doesn't think that has had any bearing on losing to the Wellingtonians at Pukekura Park in the T20 final last summer because the nature of the competition makes the seasons mutually exclusive to the extent that their preoccupation in the past few games was to simply earn the right to make the final at Seddon Park.


The Aces are coming off an indifferent two-wicket loss to the last-placed Otago Volts but the prudent will argue they had little to play for knowing they had made the cut.

However, momentum is an intrinsic factor that makes even bolshy teams superstitious.
CD are teeming with talent even though they haven't always been able to blend it at pivotal times to eke out wins in T20.

Jesse Ryder, George Worker, Dane Cleaver, Joshua Clarkson all have game-changing ability in batting but perhaps the most intriguing performer has been captain William Young who leads the batting statistics with 303 runs in the T20 competition.

"I think it was against Canterbury that it got him going so since then he's been timing the ball beautifully and always has had that talent to score those runs consistently," says Wheeler.

With Ryder leading the charge when the campaign began and the likes of Bruce and Worker lifting the strike rate over the 200 per cent threshold Young has, quietly but purposefully, chipped away to accumulate runs in the mould of a genuine test cricketer.

"We've got pretty deceptive batters with Jesse coming back into form and the way Tom hits it as well so we're definitely dangerous," says Wheeler, expecting someone in the top four to provide a platform for bowlers to work from but emphasising the tailenders, including himself, Rance and Bevan Small, have stepped up to win matches.

"We keep telling them that the lower order can put up a good score but it's all good fun and I've managed to have a couple of good opportunities at No 7 to be out there for five or six overs to face a few more balls."

Ditto bowling where the muster bring variety in fulfilling different roles to the crease.

New-ball Black Caps T20 bowler Seth Rance is hard to go past but there's top wicket taker Blair Tickner's versatility from first change to opening and closing accounts.

A resurgent Wheeler is hitting the frugality stakes although the collective mantra is on taking wickets consistently rather than bowling dot balls to deflect pressure on the opposition batsmen.

"I guess with Ticks there he's that genuine wicket option at the start and through the middle so he's done a great job of getting those crucial wickets at times."

He says the formula is working now for CD so if they can pull it off today then the latent energy will be tough to contain.

Wheeler has had a frustrating start to this summer after returning from hamstring issues related to ongoing back complications but he is slowly finding the rhythm that gave him a taste of six ODIs and four T20 internationals with the Black Caps since 2015.

"That's the way it is with being a fast bowler, I guess, where you pick up those sorts of injuries so it takes a bit of time and you just have to put up with those setbacks and hope that you're going to get into some good form eventually."

He isn't 100 per cent but, like the CD in the T20 format, believes he's getting there.
Wheeler, who worked for Craggy Range Winery in 2016, is looking forward to returning there, hopefully, in the coming winter.

"I keep in touch with them and it is something I enjoy because you can't play cricket forever."


AUCKLAND ACES: Sean Solia (c), Glenn Phillips (wk), Craig Cachopa, Robbie O'Donnell, Mark Chapman, Ben Horne, Sam Curran, Donovan Grobbelaar, Roneel Hira, Tarun Nethula, Ben Lister, Michael Barry.
Coach: Mark O'Donnell.

CD STAGS: Ben Smith, Jesse Ryder, William Young (c), Tom Bruce, Dane Cleaver (wk), Joshua Clarkson, Christian Leopard, Ben Wheeler, Bevan Small, Seth Rance, Ajaz Patel, Blair Tickner.
Coach: Heinrich Malan.
Team manager: Lance Hamilton.

Note: With major associations imposing embargoes, both teams may differ in composition.