It's been a long time coming but Seth Rance is back at his swinging best to add another dimension to the bowling attack at a crucial time of the Super Smash competition.
"It's very exciting and something that hasn't happened for a couple of years with the white ball for whatever reason that much," says Rance who got prodigious swing in the Central Districts Stags' 17-run victory over the Canterbury Kings on Tuesday.
The Tom Bruce-captained Stags face the Otago Volts at the University Oval from 4.30pm, after the Central Districts Hinds match at 12.40pm, in the major association's final round of the Twenty20 double header to be televised on Saturday.
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"The ball hasn't swung that much but it was certainly pleasing to see that the other day back against the Kings and so it makes it much harder for the batters when the ball swings," he says, complimenting fellow new-ball opening seamer Ben Wheeler putting on the screws at the other end.
The 32-year-old Greytown fire station officer has been listening to his body and is mindful he needs to rest after starting the season with the four-day Plunket Shield matches this summer and playing in all, bar two, games in the T20 campaign, including the victory over the Volts in Napier.
"The body was a little bit sore so it's good to just refresh after two games off and get back into winning ways over Canterbury at Hagley Oval the other day," he says of the must-win, eliminator round demeanour of the Volts match that is vital due to the other permutations with some teams having games in hand.
Rance is mellowing with age, realising he is building a better rapport with his own constitution where listening to it overrides the need to dictate unrealistic terms so that's why he's fighting fit now and raring to go after an achillies heel injury.
Why the white ball appears to have a mind of its own has him umming and aahing in light of variables such as the wicket, ball presentation, bowler's action or the climes.
"I'm not sure, really, it's just one of things when one day you can bowl well and it swings and moves around and on other days you can do exactly the same and it doesn't."
A sighing Rance juxtaposes it with the golfer's lot where one can card 80 in a round one day and follow it up with 100 another day.
"Twenty20 is a pretty fickle game so it can easily go different ways."
The Black Caps right-arm seamer, who has eight T20 internationals and two ODI caps, realises the significance of winning against the Volts, who sit below them in third place by virtue of an inferior net run rate.
The Wellington Firebirds and Auckland Aces can qualify for the two main playoffs berths if they keep a clean sheet which turns the third qualifiers' spot into a lottery where other results will have an impact on who progresses.
"It is [an eliminator final] and we're taking it that way so it's all on the line for us against Otago Volts," he says of the hosts who have a game in hand against the Kings.
Rance isn't sure of what to expect at the University Oval but is mindful it tends to be slow traditionally. The Aldin Smith-mentored Stags have a balanced make up with a medley of slow bowlers in veteran Kieran Noema-Barnett, part-timer George Worker, test spinner Ajaz Patel, CD's top wicket taker, as well as rookie spinner Jayden Lennox from Innovative Electrical Napier Technical Old Boys.
While wickets dictate, there's the propensity to roll out other bowlers if someone has an off day for the depending champions.
The desire to retain their T20 crown, especially for coach Smith, is a burning one considering he's done great work in pushing them to realise their collective potential.
"There's a lot of pride that goes with that and we want to do well in the competition and win it again so it's certainly a driving point for us although we're aware of how fickle it can be because someone in the opposition can have an outstanding day to take it away from us."
Rance says he intends to keep pushing for higher honours with India and Australia internationals beckoning.
"I'll do what I can to stay fit and if it comes, it comes but, first and foremost, you have to take care of your own game when it comes to domestic cricket and if anything happens that's just great."
Hinds coach Jamie Watkins will be hoping his predominantly young charges will turn the tables on the Sparks who walloped them at McLean Park.
Like the Stags, the CD women registered a win over the Auckland Hearts on the road last weekend. They have beaten the Canterbury Magicians twice this season but the former powerhouses showed why they are at the bottom of the table with a mediocre batting line up and so-so bowling attack after leaders and favourites Wellington Blaze overwhelmed them at the Basin Reserve on Thursday, without Sophie Devine and on a barrage of spin.
The Jess Watkin and Rosemary Mair co-skippered Hinds, in third place, have a 0.5-point advantage over Otago after the latter were pinged as many points for a slow over rate against the ND Spirit in Alexandra on December 29.
White Fern Mair, of Napier, says their loss to the Sparks here wasn't one of their better games where they let Otago run away in the last eight overs after keeping them on a leash but she doesn't think it'll be a nagging factor at the oval.
"We need to keep the run rate down throughout the innings," says the Taradale CC player who scored an unbeaten 36 runs against the Hearts.
It was heartening to see CD — who were winless in T20 last season but are defending 50-over champions — not throw their bat at anything but try to thread the ball and freeing their arms when the tempo demands.
"It's quite different in the women's game where there's more running between the wickets and placing the ball in the gaps rather than hitting fours and sixes," says the 21-year-old although she reveals Watkin has the licence to let loose but they don't drop their shoulders if she departs cheaply.
"It's a balancing act between rotating the strike and how much we need to attack the boundaries, which is quite dependent on what pitch it is and the ground you're playing on, I guess."
Without doubt Sparks skipper and White Fern Suzie Bates still is the yardstick of batting in New Zealand and CD will have to manage her.
"It's pretty obvious Suzie is one of the best batters in the world so we do have specific plans for her but we know that if we hit our areas properly that we're good at then she'll struggle to free her arms and potentially make mistakes," says Mair who forms the CD seam attack with White Fern Hannah Rowe.
No doubt how Watkin blends the slow bowlers, such as Melissa Hansen, can be a game changer.
Mair salutes Reynard Health Supplies Havelock North CC batsman Bradley Schmulian for her incremental gains in batting.
"We seem to have a very similar eye on what I like to do in my batting which is in rotating the strike then hitting boundaries so I really enjoyed working with him," she says of the Stags batsman.
Mair recognises batsmen have targeted her bowling more this season and, despite her up-and-down spells, she's taking the experience on board to boost her portfolio.