Home final at stake

Opener Neil Broom could play a key role for the Volts today. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Opener Neil Broom could play a key role for the Volts today. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
The Otago camp will not say it out aloud but "bring on Wellington".

The Volts hosted the Wellington Firebirds in the one-day final last season and had to settle for second.

But the side has an opportunity to turn the tables on its nemesis in the twenty20 competition this season — it just needs to get past Canterbury first.

The Volts can secure a home venue for the final and avoid playing in the Friday’s elimination final with a win against Canterbury in Christchurch today.

The four competition points will move them past tournament leader Wellington.

Wellington would then host Auckland in the elimination final. The winner would play Otago in the final at the University of Otago Oval on Sunday.

That is plan A. But if the Volts lose to Canterbury they will host the elimination final against Auckland instead, while Wellington will get a few extra days to prepare for its home final.

There is a lot to play for and Otago will go into the game confident. The Volts beat Canterbury by 51 runs in Alexandra late last month and have been playing better cricket than their neighbours.

But all it takes is a Leo Carter hitting spree or a Will Williams hat-trick and the form book is worthless.

Black Cap Henry Nicholls bolsters the Canterbury line-up, while Otago has stuck with
the side which dispatched
Central Districts by nine wickets in Dunedin on Saturday, although injured all-rounder Nathan Smith has been added
to the group.

He is still struggling with a hip flexor strain and is probably unlikely to start today.

Seamer Matt Bacon played in Smith’s absence. It was his first start in the campaign and he bowled really well.

"Coming in at the business end of the competition and to deliver a spell like he did was huge," Volts coach Rob Walter said.

"That was good to see."

While Otago is trying not to look past the immediate challenge, there is one or possibly two more important games looming.

Wellington and Auckland present different challenges. Auckland is loaded with potent batsmen and boasts hitting power some international sides would envy.

Wellington has power as well but its strength lies with its pace duo of Hamish Bennett and Ollie Newton. The pair have combined to take 30 wickets.

Of course, opener Devon Conway is not to bad either. He is averaging more than 300 against Otago in the format and is the runaway leading scorer in the tournament with 494 runs at an average of 70.57. That is just outrageously good.

He seemingly hits the ball wherever he likes and did so against Otago last week with an unbeaten century.

"We’d just like to get to the final first," Walter replied when asked if he had a preference.

"They are two top teams, to be fair."

But Otago is a pretty handy unit as well. Openers Hamish Rutherford and Neil Broom are in the top five for runs scored.

Rutherford, in particular, is hitting the ball well. The amount of shots he has creamed over extra cover is testament to that.

Either the left-handed Nick Kelly or the right-handed Dean Foxcroft come in next — depending on whether Rutherford or Broom get out — and they are in tremendous form as well.

Anaru Kitchen brings lots of experience and Josh Finnie is having a breakout season in the format.

Bowling-wise, Otago is arguably not as strong but the Volts bowled really well on Saturday to restrict Central Districts to 139 for six.

 

Otago v Canterbury

Christchurch, today, 4.10pm
Otago:
Neil Broom, Hamish Rutherford, Nick Kelly, Dean Foxcroft, Anaru Kitchen, Josh Finnie, Mitch Renwick, Michael Rippon, Jacob Duffy, Matt Bacon, Michael Rae, Dale Phillips, Nathan Smith.
Canterbury: Chad Bowes, Stephen Murdoch, Henry Nicholls, Cole McConchie, Leo Carter, Cameron Fletcher, Andrew Ellis, Henry Shipley, Todd Astle, Will Williams, Ed Nuttall, Jack Boyle.
 

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