Cricket: Consistency puts Otago in box seat

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 their way.

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 others.

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 the tournament.

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 Hamish Rutherford.

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.



Otago Volts
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 twenty/20.

• 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

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