Cricket: Blakely may get chance for Otago

Otago coach Vaughn Johnson
Otago coach Vaughn Johnson
The first round of the Ford Trophy one-day competition has thrown up plenty of challenges - and a possible new cap - for Otago coach Vaughn Johnson.

The New Zealand XI match against England starting in Queenstown tomorrow rules out Hamish Rutherford, Neil Wagner, Neil Broom and James Neesham, offering up a possible start for Sam Blakely.

Blakely (19), a right-arm seamer from the North East Valley club, has pleased Johnson with his progress after a strong showing at the provincial A tournament two months ago, when he topped the tournament's wicket tally with 14 at an average of 20.

"He's been part of our stable since the beginning of the season. He's come into the squad and he's done quite well,'' Johnson said.

"He's another one of those young players we may have to give an opportunity to.''

The final spot in the 12 was down to a battle of two, with Blakely and first-class seamer Blair Soper the candidates for the last place in the side.

"The other option was possibly Blair Soper, but we feel he's more suited to four-day games at the moment, and Sam may be more suited to the one-day game.''

Otago finished two spots ahead of Wellington in last year's limited-overs competition, ending up third after losing to Auckland in the last preliminary final before Auckland went on to lose to Central Districts in the final.

The one-day competition last year was interrupted constantly by weather. Otago was able to complete only five of its eight games. Two were abandoned, while the second-round match against Central Districts in Invercargill barely got under way before being declared a no-result due to rain.

Wellington has named an experienced side, with returning Black Caps all-rounder James Franklin taking up the captaincy.

He is joined by Grant Elliott, who drops back from the national side, while Jesse Ryder and Michael Papps give the Firebirds plenty of batting depth.