Cricket: Otago skipper getting more time in the middle

Otago opener Craig Cumming's shift to No 4 in the batting order in the one-dayers is a permanent move this season, coach Mike Hesson said yesterday.

Cumming first dropped down the order in the State Shield semifinal against Canterbury last season and played extremely well in that spot during the final against Auckland, scoring an undefeated 86 to help Otago win its first national banner in 20 years.

The captain batted well against Central Districts in Alexandra on Tuesday, scoring an unbeaten 70 to guide Otago to an eight-wicket win.

"It is something we've planned for the whole year," Hesson said.

"Craig is very good at manoeuvring the ball in the middle overs, and that is an area we were a little bit deficient in last year."

With Neil Broom away on national duty, Cumming's experience is needed in the middle for the match against Wellington at the Basin Reserve today.

Otago has had one change forced on it from the side that beat Central by eight wickets.

Hamish Rutherford comes into the squad for Broom.

With Shaun Haig and Aaron Redmond the incumbent openers, Rutherford, who is a specialist opener, is likely to bat in the middle order at No 5.

However, Hesson was keeping tight-lipped on the make-up of the rest of the top order: "We've got plenty of options".

After a rusty display against Northern Districts in round two, Otago found some form against Central.

"It was a clinical performance. We set the tone in the field with the ball and then to get the bonus point finished off a good day for us."

Although Otago was pleased with the win, Hesson wants more consistency from his side.

"It is a very even competition and if you don't play well, and the opposition does, you can get a hiding."

Otago is in fourth place with seven points from three games, and Wellington lies in third spot with eight points from three games.

Both sides will be hunting the win to remain in touch with Central, which leads the competition with 10 points from Northern Districts on nine.

Wellington will be without all-rounder Grant Elliott and seam bowler Mark Gillespie, both of whom are in the Black Caps squad.

However, Wellington will still boasts a handy attack with Iain O'Brien and James Franklin in the squad.

English all-rounder Graham Napier leads the most valuable player competition and skipper Matthew Bell is a threat with the bat.

Otago v Wellington

Basin Reserve, today

Otago: Craig Cumming (c), Aaron Redmond, Shaun Haig, Greg Todd, Hamish Rutherford, Nathan McCullum, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Derek de Boorder, Warren McSkimming, Ian Butler, Neil Wagner, Craig Smith.

Wellington: Matthew Bell (c), Stephen Murdoch, Neal Parlane, BJ Crook, James Franklin, Chris Nevin, Graham Napier, Luke Woodcock, Mark Houghton, Ronald Karaitana, Iain O'Brien, Harry Boam.



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