Greg Hay feels like he's just starting the first-class season this summer for the Central Districts Stags because of the almost three-month intermission to accommodate the white-ball campaign.
"Hopefully I'll carry on but it feels like a fresh start again like it's almost a new season again," said Hay in Napier yesterday before the Heinrich Malan-coached Stags host the fifth-placed Otago Volts in round six of the four-day Plunket Shield at McLean Park, Napier, from today.
"It's good to be back and involved," he said yesterday, just before Stags captain William Young and his troops trained at Nelson Park across the road.
It wasn't easy for the 33-year-old from Nelson to watch CD come up shy twice in the white-ball campaign in the final hurdle but he was determined to help the collective get the job done in first-class cricket.
Needless to say the white-ball merchants will still be suffering from the hangover of stumbling in the grand finals of the Burger King Super Smash Twenty20 loss to the Northern Districts Knights on January 21 and the one-day Ford Trophy to the Auckland Aces last Saturday.
Hay said he and the likes of Bradley Schmulian had been playing premier club cricket and a couple of three-day games for CD A in the past few weeks to ensure they remained in the loop.
"I think we've had a little bit more cricket with the red ball than the other guys have had involved with the one-dayers."
Hay was sympathetic towards his white-ball teammates returning to the shield format, mindful they required conditioning to play up to the 110 overs that can be played each day over four days.
"Some of us haven't been playing at the top level so we'll have to get up to speed the minute we get out there."
The opening batsman, who averages 41.21 in first-class cricket, said there was no denying a modicum of dejection was still prevalent among players after the double grand final blows.
That had only hardened the resolve of the wounded Stags, who wanted to end their season with accolades in what they considered the premier format of domestic cricket.
To finish the season and not come away with any trophies will be very disappointing so, hopefully, we'll get that extra motivation for that last push."
Hay echoed the sentiments of his skipper that the four-dayers didn't have a grand final so that should also help relieve some tension.
"When it comes to the last round, though, and it's a must win it'll feel a little bit like a final."
He said a few summers had gone by since CD were entering the second phase of a shield campaign in such a strong position.
"We've been chasing the tail a bit in the past," said the right hander of the undefeated Stags who are second on the shield table, three points adrift of the Wellington Firebirds.
Hay said he and Schmulian were the type of batsmen who tended to ease themselves into their roles and were quite familiar with their portfolios.
"All the guys coming back from white ball are generally pretty aggressive players by nature but they should be able to play their shots if we provide the platform for them."
Jesse Ryder, in a bid to be recalled to the Black Caps, was 11 runs shy of a record back-to-back four centuries in the shield matches but that didn't transcend to the white-ball formats.
However, opening batsman George Worker, who even played the white formats with an educated stance, is out with an ankle injury.
Schmulian scored a double ton on debut in the opening match this season while Hay is coming off a century for CD A against their Wellington counterparts at the Basin Reserve last week
But CD won't be shy of adroit batsmen. Young, who came in at first drop, was the mainstay in the T20 and List A formats. He has red-ball pedigree.
"Jesse's actually a red-ball cricketer at heart, too, and not everyone knows that," he said of the 33-year-old former Black Cap who has resettled in Napier from Wellington.
Young, a former New Zealand Under-19 World Cup captain from Taranaki, has flirted with a Black Caps' call up and, perhaps, is the most conspicuous player not to have had a break into the most elite international arena.
The country's top domestic wicket-taker for the past two summers, left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel, also has 20 scalps under his belt from five games.
"Ajaz likes bowling with the red ball and he'll be looking forward to being out there to get lots of overs under his belt," he said of Patel in third place overall, behind Aces paceman Hamish Bennett (27 wickets) and Firebirds bowler Logan van Beek (24).
Black Caps paceman Doug Bracewell should be hitting his straps while the country's top domestic white-ball seamer, Blair Tickner, will want to bring Big Mo from the other formats in trying to catch the eye of national selectors.
For someone who has played countless games at McLean Park, Hay is looking forward to asking for middle and leg.
"I love playing here. It's normally a good place to bat," he said although the top order will be facing the country's hardest-working seamer, Black Cap Neil Wagner.
CD will be without Black Caps seamer Ben Wheeler who is rebuilding his bowling loads.
For the four-day Plunket Shield match starting today at McLean Park, Napier:
■ CD STAGS: William Young (c, Taranaki), Doug Bracewell (HB), Tom Bruce (Taranaki), Dane Cleaver (wk, Manawatu), Greg Hay (Nelson), Adam Milne (Manawatu), Ajaz Patel (HB), Seth Rance (Wairarapa), Jesse Ryder (HB), Brad Schmulian (HB), Bevan Small (Manawatu), Ben Smith (Whanganui), Blair Tickner (HB).
Coach: Heinrich Malan.
■ OTAGO VOLTS: Rob Nicol (c), Brad Wilson, Hamish Rutherford, Neil Broom, Jimmy Neesham, Derek de Boorder (wk), Shawn Hicks, Anaru Kitchen, Mark Craig, Neil Wagner, Michael Rae, Jacob Duffy.
Coach: Rob Walter.