It is a great honour and also a big challenge for Unreal Grass Wicket Wanganui cricketer Ben Smith to be the new captain of the Central Stags as the Ford Trophy got back underway today against the Otago Volts in Dunedin.
The 29-year-old Smith was publicly announced as the captain on Saturday afternoon with regular Stags skipper Tom Bruce, a former Wanganui representative, and other players on duty for New Zealand A against the touring Indian team.
"Not one that I was expecting, but there's so many guys doing well and playing for New Zealand A, that there's an opportunity," Smith had said the weekend before after his extraordinary 240 not out for Wanganui against Taranaki at Victoria Park.
In the Stags press release, Smith said he was looking forward to facing the Volts, who effectively knocked the Stags out of contention for the Dream11 Super Smash finals by beating them in their last match.
"We've beaten the Volts well already once this season in the T20 format and always look forward to playing against them," said Smith.
"We have a few relatively fresh players in our squad as well and it's another good opportunity for the likes of Ryan Watson and Jayden Lennox to step up and continue their exciting progress this summer."
Smith had the recalled Will Young, who scored 71 for Taranaki against Wanganui, and Hawke's Bay's Kieran Noema-Barnett alongside him as former Stags captains, along with Nelson's Greg Hay, who led them in the Plunket Shield.
"It will be great to have those guys around me and I'm really looking forward to the opportunity," said Smith.
"I've captained half a dozen games for CD A in the last two seasons and a little bit in the past, years and years ago, so I feel ready and excited."
Yet on a batsman-friendly University of Otago Oval, Smith had a rude awakening in his 49th List A one-day match as Otago won the toss and raised a daunting 407-4 from their 50 overs.
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The magnificent double ton at Victoria Park
Otago captain and opener Hamish Rutherford picked up where he left off in the Super Smash, scoring an outstanding 155 from 104 balls, as all of the top order made contributions.
Australian-born Nick Kelly (79 from 56) and Black Cap Neil Broom (52 from 50) were the next highest contributors, as Otago smashed 47 boundaries and 11 sixes in the innings.
At press time, the Stags were still making a game chase at 119-1 in the 17th over, with Smith having just come out to bat at No 4, but he was dismissed for three after five deliveries following a catch.
The Stags and Volts will have their return game at Nelson's Saxton Oval on Wednesday morning.