Cricket: New Otago import cuts to the chase

Darren Stevens at the University Oval yesterday - "If we are chasing a ridiculous amount of runs...
Darren Stevens at the University Oval yesterday - "If we are chasing a ridiculous amount of runs I will still back myself to get those runs." Photo by Linda Robertson.
Darren Stevens has the potential to become a matchwinner for the Otago twenty/20 team this summer.

The English professional arrived in Dunedin on Thursday and practised at the University Oval for the first time yesterday. Stevens (34) has played in six of the eight twenty/20 finals in English county cricket and has been in the winning team twice - for Leicestershire and Kent.

"As a batsman, I try to take it right down to the last ball," he said. "If we are chasing a ridiculous amount of runs I will still back myself to get those runs. If you can get it down to two runs a ball in the last over you still have a chance of winning the game.

"I always back myself to chase down what is set for us. There is more time than you think in twenty/20 cricket.

"A lot of players lose their head too early. If you can keep your head on your shoulders and take it down to the last ball you are in with a chance."

He does not think twenty/20 is all about bash and hope.

"It is all about being the smartest on the day," he said. "It is not about brawn and hitting it over the boundary."

Stevens does not think he will be selected for the English test team but hopes he is close to being picked for the one-day and twenty/20 teams.

"If selected for the World Cup next year I'd be the happiest man alive," he said.

"I did not expect to be selected for the English Lions (the A side) last summer."

He had success in the tri-series featuring the West Indies, India and England, averaging 80 and being named the player of the tournament.

This season will be the second time Stevens has played cricket in New Zealand. In 2001 he played for the Taita club in Wellington.

He played for England in the Hong Kong Sixes two weeks ago and met Otago's Nathan McCullum, who played for New Zealand.

Stevens and Chris Nash, another English professional, have been contracted by Otago for the domestic twenty/20 competition, which starts next month.

Stevens has played 168 first-class games and is a powerful striker who can bat anywhere in the order. He is also a useful medium-pacer who often opens the bowling for Kent.

In 84 twenty/20 fixtures the right-hander has scored 1746 runs at an impressive average of 29.59. He is also regarded as a clever bowler, having taken 39 wickets at 21.51 with an economy rate of 7.29.

Stevens brings out his best form under pressure. He scored 70 in the English twenty/20 semifinal against Somerset in 2008 and was run out in the last over.

A year earlier, his dynamic batting in the last two overs helped Kent win the championship.

"We needed 33 in the last two over and got there with five balls to spare," Stevens said.

He has scored 22 centuries in a first-class career that began in 1997 with Leicestershire. This includes double-centuries against Glamorgan in 2005 and Middlesex last year.

His most important century was the the 110 he scored against a strong Lancashire attack last year when Kent was struggling at 90 for six.

- Otago import

Age: 34.
Teams: Leicestershire, Kent, English Lions.
Twenty/20 record: 1746 runs (average 29.59) in 84 games; 39 wickets at economy rate of 7.29.


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