Cricket: Otago batsmen seekend to batting blues

Craig Cumming
Craig Cumming
Sometimes a cracking shot is all it takes for confidence to return, and other times form can remain as elusive as the end of the rainbow.

In cricket it seems it is even possible to try too hard.

So what do you do when the runs suddenly stop, as they have for the Otago's top five in the Plunket Shield this season?

Former Black Caps opener Craig Cumming has scored more hundreds (20) for Otago than anyone else. Even he finds it a tough question.

"It is not very often we [Otago] go five games without scoring a hundred in the top five," Cumming said.

"Some of it may come down to confidence ... but I think if you could just put your finger on what has gone wrong, we would have solved it by now.

"You just have to keep trying ... be mentally prepared to try and bat three sessions.

"If you can [do that] then you will get a hundred. Perhaps, sometimes, we fall into the trap of looking to be a bit positive. We want to be hitting the ball all the time and conditions don't always allow that.

"You have to play one ball at a time and be prepared to bat for 250 balls."

That was certainly the case in the four-wicket loss to Auckland at the University Oval last week. Two or three Otago batsmen got themselves out from the last ball of an over, trying to manufacture a scoring shot instead of remaining patient.

After a steady diet of limited-overs cricket, it appeared some players just lost concentration.

"I haven't noticed that but if there is a trend then you have to look at that," Cumming said.

"When I'm batting, I just try and play each ball ... In first-class cricket if you are there to face the next ball you've won that battle."

Otago has not been winning that battle this summer. Of the top five, Sam Wells has been the best with 257 runs at 32.12, including three 50s.

Cumming, who has scored 11 hundreds in the past three seasons, has also been searching for a decent knock with just 231 runs at 28.87.

Neil Broom (184 at 23) and Michael Bracewell (179 at 25.57) have also struggled.

Aaron Redmond's (122 at 13.55) dismal season has attracted all the headlines.

He was dropped as captain of the one-day and four-day teams and desperately needs runs in Queenstown this weekend. But heavy rain on Thursday and afternoon showers yesterday has so far ruined any possibility of play.

In 44 first-class games for Otago, Redmond has scored 2779 runs at an average of 39.70, including six hundreds. He is the sort of players selectors will persist with, despite a lean run, and Cumming has faith the right-hander can end his season on a high.

Leader Northern Districts and second-placed Auckland both made solid, if unspectacular, starts to their matches against Canterbury and Wellington respectively, APNZ reported.

At Colin Maiden Park in Auckland, the host batted out the first day to reach 303-8 at stumps, Neal Parlane and Anaru Kitchen making half centuries.

It was a very different story in Rangiora, where the Knights were dismissed for 197 before skittling Canterbury for 121, to take a 76-run lead heading into the second day.