Cricket: Otago top order to stay the same

Otago cricket coach Vaughn Johnson at Logan Park. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Otago cricket coach Vaughn Johnson at Logan Park. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Otago is not considering tinkering with its top order despite not everything going quite to plan as it looks to continue a winning run.

The Volts have won their past four games on the trot which is a strong argument against making any changes. But Monday's 13-run win against Auckland in Queenstown exposed a few cracks.

Otago slumped to 53 for five before a wonderful partnership of 103 in just 50 balls between Ryan ten Doeschate (61 from 37) and Jimmy Neesham (59 not out form 31) turned the innings around.

Otago ended up posting 157 for seven after looking like it might struggle to reach 120.

Auckland also found it tough going at the top of the order, losing four wickets for 16. Colin de Grandhomme whacked 32 from 12 and Craig Cachopa had his side on course for victory with 43 from 33.

But seamers Jacob Duffy and James Fuller picked up early wickets and returned to for the final four overs to restrict Auckland to 144 for nine.

Duffy took career-best figures of four for 21 and Fuller took one for 20. They were both superb and ten Doeschate also bowled a fine four-over spell, taking one for 18.

While Otago coach Vaughn Johnson was pleased with the way his side fought back from a disastrous start, he accepted his side still had plenty to work on.

''In the end it was another good win,'' Johnson said.

''I'm not sure whether it was one of our better wins. Again, the fielding was a little bit disappointing.''

As for the failure at the top of the order, Johnson was not about to stir things up.

The decision to promote Neil Broom to open ahead of regular opener Aaron Redmond is to allow Broom, a notoriously slow starter, time to get set. Once he gets going he can be punishing but if he does not come off, Otago loses a lot of momentum. And if he does not open, where does he bat?

That question appears to be shaping Otago's whole batting strategy. The other burning question is why did Nathan McCullum come in ahead of ten Doeschate?

McCullum is a very accomplished all-rounder in the shortened format of the game but ten Doeschate is the team's best-performed batsman and needs to be given every opportunity to face as many deliveries as possible.

But Johnson said there was no temptation to promote the Dutch international in the order.

"We don't want to get to a stage where we are changing things too much. We want a settled order but after the first power play anyone can go in, depending on who is bowling.''

''There is no temptation [to promote ten Doeschate] at all. Ryan is successful where he is batting and you generally won't see him in during the power play.''

After the fielding restrictions have been lifted Johnson has as many as four batsmen padded up to give the team options. If a spinner is bowling at the time, Ian Butler or James Fuller might get the nod to go in early, Johnson said.

If a quick bowler is on, then Michael Bracewell is a better option.

Otago's win against Auckland enabled the Volts to climb to the top of the competition table. A quirk of the draw means Otago will play Auckland again at Eden Park on Friday and, injuries aside, Otago is unlikely to make any changes.

McCullum is carrying a niggle but should be fit enough to play.