Craig in doubt for crucial match with Canterbury

Mark Craig.
Mark Craig.
Otago co-captain Mark Craig has until this morning to prove his fitness for today's critical one-dayer against Canterbury.

The former international off-spinner missed Otago's 16-run win against Central Districts on Sunday.

He suffered a back spasm on Saturday and was forced to skip the game.

''It was just one of those things that bowlers get,'' coach Rob Walter said.

''It is probably 50-50 whether he is good to go at this stage.''

Green Island all-rounder Christi Viljoen replaced Craig in the 12 and started the match ahead of pace bowler Warren Barnes.

Walter felt the conditions better suited Viljoen with his ability to vary his pace. The medium pacer struggled with his length and got clobbered for 37 runs from five overs.

But, overall, Otago produced a much-improved bowling performance.

Seamer Matt Bacon and leg-spinner Michael Rippon claimed three wickets apiece to help restrict Central Districts.

''They're a young bowling line-up and they responded well to the conditions.

''They hung in there when [Josh] Clarkson and [Doug] Bracewell were really going.

''We could have done things better ... but that group of bowlers continues to grow and are making smart strategic decisions under pressure.''

It was a tough day for bowling as the wind caused a few issues. However, Walter felt his side got ''too one-dimensional'' for a period.

Clarkson was hitting the ball about as well as you can expect to hit the ball, so that did not help.

He threatened to steal victory but it was veteran right-hander Neil Broom and hard-hitting middle-order player Anaru Kitchen who set up the win for Otago with some wonderful batting.

The pair put on 80 for the fourth wicket and were largely responsible for the team passing 200 in a rain-affected 32-over game.

Their ongoing success is critical for Otago. The batting can be brittle outside the big three - Hamish Rutherford, Broom and Kitchen.

Shawn Hicks had a promising summer last season and is due a big score. Josh Finnie started the competition well with an aggressive knock of 63 but has registered two single-digit scores in the past two games.

Mitch Renwick has got a start in all four innings and will be desperate to push on.

''From a batting point of view, we need to keep building on the things we've done - and that has been key players in our line-up standing up and delivering.''

The win has kept Otago (nine points) in touch with the competition leaders nearing the midway point of the tournament. It is in fourth place with two wins from four games.

Canterbury has the same record but it is ranked one place higher courtesy of a superior net run rate.

It has made one change to the side that lost to Auckland by three runs at Eden Park on Sunday. Jack Boyle replaces Ken McClure, who was struck by a bouncer in the last game.

Wellington leads the competition with 13 points and will host the second-placed Auckland (12 points) at the Basin Reserve today, while the winless Northern Districts (2 points) will host Central Districts (6 points) at Seddon Park.

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