About the Match
The top two teams, Central Districts and Auckland will come face to face on 29th December at New Plymouth for the 23rd match of the series. While the Stags are positioned at the top with 18 points, Auckland is at No.2 with 16; the latter has been on a losing streak in recent two outings and is eager to make a much-needed comeback. While this is the first time they play against each other this season, they both are well aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which will give each of them a vantage point to dominate the other on the field.
The bowlers did a fantastic job of restricting the Wellington batting line-up to 133 runs going out to field first in the last match; George Worker used his spin tactics to take 3-26 while speedsters Seth Rance and Ben Wheeler claimed 2 wickets apiece to demolish the opposition. They are in good form to take on the might of the Auckland squad too here. Others like Blair Tickner, Ryan McCone and spinner Marty Kain have consistently taken wickets this season and add depth to the attack.
Chasing 134 runs, old-horse Mahela Jayawardene put up a superb 40 off 21 to give them a good foundation; all-rounder George Worker contributed with a well-made 32 while Tom Bruce and Dane Cleaver supported well to help steer the team across the finish line with ease. Against Knights though, they faced a challenging total of 198 and despite Jayawardene’s brilliant 64 off 36, and good contributions by others in the top-order, they lost the match by a narrow 10 runs.
The bowlers had been expensive against Knights and they would have learnt some tough lessons from that defeat; the recent victory against Wellington will act as a morale-booster here.
Top-order batsmen have been inconsistent with the runs and they failed in the last two matches, one while setting a target against Knights and the other while chasing a formidable total against Wellington. Glenn Phillips, Michael-Guptill Bunce and the captain Rob Nicol could try to stabilize the innings while others like Raval, Mark Chapman and Ben Horne could keep the scoreboard ticking.
In the match against Knights, Chapman and Horne bore the responsibility of building a target; they both scored 30 + runs each and the team could try and rearrange the batting line-up a bit to get the best from the bat. With just 142 to defend, the bowlers struggled to get the game plan working; speedster Tymal Mills was the lone wicket-taker while others like Nethula, Barry and Nicol proved to be too expensive, losing the match by 9 wickets in the end.
Against Wellington, fast-bowlers Rob Nicol and Mills took 2 wickets each while spinners Nethula and Barry took 3 wickets between them; however, they couldn’t stop the opponent’s run-flow. Nicol and Chapman did well to score big chasing 183 however, despite good contributions from Raval and Solia, they lost the match in the end.
While Auckland has lost two games in row, they have good resources to bounce back. Central Districts have gained momentum again after the recent conquest; and, we feel that Stags with their recently gathered momentum are better placed to win the match on Friday