Otago is within reach of a home final and it has done it by
playing the most consistent cricket.
The Volts have won their last six HRV Cup games and, barring
a dramatic slump in form, should be part of the playoffs.
If they win two of their three remaining matches, they will
host the final. One win from three may still be enough to
secure a home final and, if Otago goes on a three-game losing
streak, it probably still has enough points in the bank to
scrape into the playoffs.
Otago has a four-point buffer at the top of the competition
table and its nearest rivals, Wellington and Northern
Districts (both 20 points), have played one more match.
Auckland (12) shapes as the only other team with a realistic
chance of slipping into the playoffs. The Aces' chances took
a dive following back-to-back losses to Otago but the
defending champions can still reach the playoffs if they win
their remaining three round-robin games and other results go
Technically, Canterbury (8) can still make it if it wins its
remaining games and others drop the ball. Central Districts
(4) is playing only for pride but can spoil the party for
Otago could seal a home final as early as Friday with a win
against Wellington at the Basin Reserve. But if Otago comes
unstuck in the capital, it still has two further chances to
nab a home final with games against Central in New Plymouth
(Sunday) and Canterbury in Dunedin (next Tuesday).
One more win might be enough, as Otago enjoys a superior net
run rate. With no bonus points on offer, net run rate is
effectively an extra win. It is used to separate sides level
on points and Otago (1.286) enjoys a huge advantage over
Wellington (0.536), Northern (-0.049) and Auckland (0.090).
Maths aside, Otago has played the most consistent cricket and
deserves to be in pole position going into the crunch end of
Dutch international Ryan ten Doeschate has been in terrific
form with 318 runs, at an average of 79.50. His ability to
pile on runs in the dying stages of an innings has been a key
factor in Otago's six-match winning streak.
The Volts have not lost since he joined the side. He has also
produced some handy performances with the ball but has been
used only sparingly as a bowler.
Eighteen-year-old fast bowler Jacob Duffy, in his first full
season with Otago, has been a revelation. He is the
competition's leading wicket-taker with 11 wickets at 17.09
and produced a fantastic final over to help Otago hold on
against Canterbury for a dramatic one-run win last month.
Left-arm spinner Nick Beard has been parsimonious and has
also picked up nine wickets at 12.55. He worked well in
tandem with Nathan McCullum in Sunday's 93-run win against
Central Districts at the University Oval.
Batsman Neil Broom has found a home at the top of the innings
and has set up some superb platforms with fellow opener
When Otago last won the tournament, in 2008-09, the team got
off to some rollicking starts thanks to Rutherford and Aaron
Redmond. Redmond has dropped down the order to No 3 this
season, to allow Broom the time to build an innings. It is a
tactic which has, so far, worked well.
The run home
• v Wellington (Basin Reserve), January 11
Wellington is in second place with five wins from eight
games. Punishing opener Jesse Ryder is the competition's
leading scorer with 417 runs at an average of 59.57 and a
strike rate of 177.44.
• v Central Districts (Pukekura Park), January 13
Central has struggled this season with one win from seven
games and is out of contention. But upsets are common in
• v Canterbury (University Oval), January 15
Technically, Canterbury can still make the playoffs, but with
just two wins from seven games it seems very unlikely. The
Wizards remain dangerous and were unlucky not to beat Otago
in Timaru last month.
• Preliminary final, January 18
• Final, January 20