Cricket: Otago lifts itself off deck for semi

If you had glanced into the Otago dressing room following its dramatic one-wicket loss to Wellington in Invercargill on Sunday, you could have been forgiven for thinking the defending champion had just been eliminated from the State Shield.

The only sound you could hear coming from the pavilion was the sombre sound of heads hitting hands as some of the players buried their faces deep in their palms.

Others stared vacantly towards the field or aimlessly shuffled gear around in their kit bags.

The disappointment of missing out on a home semifinal was palpable. But once the realisation set in they would be heading to Christchurch to play Canterbury tomorrow, gradually the mood started to lift.

"We were a little bit deflated straight after the match but within a short period of time we turned it around," Otago coach Mike Hesson said.

"I mean, we are in the same situation we were last year.

"I was pretty pleased we were so deflated, because it showed how much it means to us. The key thing is turning it around."

The semifinal is a repeat of last year's match-up.

Otago only scraped into the semifinal but once there convincingly beat Canterbury by six wickets in Christchurch.

Otago can probably claim the favourite's tag, having won the last four matches between the sides, including a 125-run drubbing earlier this month.

"We've done pretty well against Canterbury during the last few years. But they are always a different side without Shane Bond."

The former New Zealand strike bowler made a slow start to the tournament but has found his rhythm in recent weeks.

So far he has taken 17 wickets at 24.05 and has been making inroads early with his ability to swing the new ball.

"He certainly is a major threat. His first spell to any team in world cricket is always dangerous.

"You've got to play the ball you are confronted with but we'll probably take fewer risks against him in his first spell."

Otago had a pool session and some individual skill work yesterday and leaves for Christchurch this morning.

The team will train at the Village Green this afternoon.

Otago has had one change forced on it, with Neil Broom unavailable due to his commitments with the national side.

His replacement has not been finalised yet, with Hesson wanting to see how several players perform for Otago A in the provincial A tournament.

Sean Eathorne, Jordan Sheed, Hamish Rutherford and Sam Wells are all in with a shot, although Rutherford probably has the inside running as he played an earlier part in the campaign.

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