Cricket: Otago's international line-up makes it hot favourite

How times have changed. It was not that long ago Canterbury could boast a swag of international players the likes of Nathan Astle, Chris Cairns and Craig McMillan.

But now it is Otago that has the star-studded line-up, with seven past or present internationals in the team.

And with its four Black Caps expected to return for Sunday's twenty/20 final, the Volts will go into the game against Canterbury as the red-hot favourites.

Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Ian Butler and Neil Broom will be on duty when New Zealand plays India in the second twenty/20 match in Wellington tonight but, injury aside, will turn out for Otago.

"They are all certainly keen and available but it is just a matter of how they pull up after Friday night's game," Otago coach Mike Hesson said.

Ironically, it was the likes of Astle, Cairns and McMillan who kept former Canterbury players Aaron Redmond, Broom and Craig Cumming on the sidelines.

The trio moved south to Otago in search of more opportunities and have flourished in the province.

Redmond was selected for New Zealand's tour of England last year but was axed after the test series in Australia.

Since that disappointment he has rediscovered his touch and is the leading scorer in the twenty/20 tournament with 325 runs at an average of 54.16.

Punishing middle-order batsman Broom was selected for the Black Caps one-day side this season and has acquitted himself well.

Cumming has been in and out of the national side but has been in magnificent form at domestic level this season.

Butler is another who has reaped rewards from his transfer south.

He burst on to the international scene as a raw but promising fast bowler.

A back injury stymied his career and the former Northern Districts player was forced to reinvent himself as a bowling all-rounder and has blossomed, earning an international recall.

Add the likes of English international Dimitri Mascarenhas and the McCullum brothers, and Otago has a formidable XI.

Otago will delay naming its side until after the Black Caps match against India.

Veteran medium pacer Warren McSkimming has been struggling with a calf strain but bowled without further trouble at training yesterday.

So far, 1600 tickets have sold for the final and Otago cricket chief executive Ross Dykes hopes the University Oval will be close to its capacity of about 3000.

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