Whanganui's professional cricketer Ben Smith will join Black Cap Ross Taylor in the first game of the Central Districts Stags season against the Auckland Aces at Eden Park's Outer Oval tomorrow.
After being on the outside of the Stags lineup for much of last season while they won the Plunket Shield, instead captaining Central Districts A, the top order batsman Smith gets the chance to re-establish himself as the squad works through a number of injuries.
Will Young (shoulder repair), Black Cap and Whanganui Collegiate old boy Tom Bruce (minor knee surgery), Adam Milne (off season ankle surgery), Doug Bracewell (knee), Bevan Small (knee) and Kieran Noema-Barnett (side) are all unavailable.
In addition, left arm bowler Ryan McCone has retired while pace bowlers Liam Dudding and Nav Patel are both unavailable for the season.
New Zealand Under 19 allrounder Joey Field gets the opportunity to make his debut.
Smith would no doubt like to recapture the form he showed in the 2015-16 season, when he scored 917 runs, which was the third highest tally for a single season in Central Districts history, behind Martin Crowe (1348 runs) and another Ben Smith (939), an overseas import.
After a busy international campaign, Taylor's previous first-class appearance for the Stags was in last season's first round in Nelson – contributing a knock of 75 to the Stags' opening outright win against Canterbury.
The Stags begin this summer's three-peat campaign with two big away matches, heading to Northern Districts' Bay Oval (Mount Maunganui) for the second round after this week's opening clash with the Aces.
The team is:
Captain Greg Hay (Nelson); George Worker (Manawatū); Wicketkeeper Dane Cleaver (Manawatū); Joseph Field (Hawke's Bay); Willem Ludick (Nelson); Ajaz Patel (Hawke's Bay); Seth Rance (Wairarapa); Brad Schmulian (Hawke's Bay); Ben Smith (Whanganui); Ross Taylor (Black Caps); Blair Tickner (Hawke's Bay); Ben Wheeler (Marlborough).
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Meanwhile, it was another postponed start to the season for the Whanganui teams in the Coastal Challenge Cup as Saturday's games locally and in Horowhenua-Kapiti were abandoned due to wet weather.
Wanganui Vet Services Marist and Property Brokers United were set to meet in a Victoria Park derby game, while Whanganui Collegiate 1st XI were to host Weraroa CC at the school grounds and Tech CC were off down to face Paraparaumu.
The rain out means Levin Old Boys and Paraparaumu CC remain top of the table by virtue to picking up wins the previous weekend, as the Horowhenua Kapiti teams start the season a week early as part of split round.