Cricket: Finals talk can wait – Johnson

Black Caps and Otago all-rounder Nathan McCullum (left) is congratulated for reaching 50 by team...
Black Caps and Otago all-rounder Nathan McCullum (left) is congratulated for reaching 50 by team-mate Ryan ten Doeschate during their HRV Cup match against Central Districts at the University Oval yesterday. Otago won by 93 runs. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Otago coach Vaughn Johnson swatted away any suggestions his side was in sight of a home final.

But after the Volts' 93-run demolition of Central Districts at the University Oval yesterday, the team has consolidated its place at the top of the competition table and improved its net run rate to 1.286.

With three round-robin matches remaining, a place in the playoffs seems secure but the bigger prize of a home final is also in reach.

''We're not really interested in the points table,'' Johnson said.

''As I've said throughout the campaign, if we play well the results will take care of themselves.

''We were clinical [yesterday]. CD were a little bit hampered by injury. They had a mishap in the warm-up and that was disappointing for them. But it was important for us to keep on a roll and we've done that.''

'Otago has won its last six games on the trot and made no contest of its match with Central.

The Volts top order made a cautious start but accelerated through impressive Dutch international Ryan ten Doeschate and Black Caps all-rounder Nathan McCullum (50) to post a formidable 194 for four.

The visitors could only managed 101 in reply. Otago shared the wickets but left arm spinner Nick Beard was the pick of the bowlers with two for 10 from three overs and McCullum completed a very good day with two for 21 from four overs.

He probably had claims for man of the match but ten Doeschate has been a revelation for Otago this summer and was instrumental again. With scores of 65, 60 not out, 47, 61, 26 and 59 not out yesterday, he has been one of the form players of the competition. Two years ago he was named tournament MVP when he played for Canterbury. He bought his 50 up with a massive six on to the roof of the grandstand and has scored 318 runs in six games at an average a shade under 80.

''Tendo is a champion, not only with ball and bat but also the way he manages the players in the field. He is a big support for Derek [de Boorder, Otago captain]. The two are working really well together.''

Central had some bad luck with batsman William Young forced to pull out through injury. That meant the visitors were forced to play Adam Milne, who did not bowl because of an ankle injury.

But that was no excuse for a poor performance. The side dropped at least five catches, some of them hard, some very hard. But Carl Cachopa also put down a regulation effort after earlier dropping Hamish Rutherford from the first ball of the match.

Otago got bogged down during the first four overs. But as soon as Rutherford got one out of the middle, the runs started coming easier.

The left-hander whacked 34 from 22 deliveries and helped set up a platform with fellow opener Neil Broom who scored 25 from 28. Ten Doeschate and McCullum added 95 for the fourth wicket and helped take 79 runs off the last five overs.

Otago's next match is against Wellington at the Basin Reserve on Friday.


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