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Otago has reached the midway point of the Super Smash and its campaign appears to have lost some momentum, cricket writer Adrian Seconi writes.
What the Volts needed was a compressed twenty20 campaign so they could capitalise on their surprising form during the one-day tournament. Instead, they are basically playing once a week — weather depending — and all that momentum they took into the tournament has seemingly dwindled. The 54-run loss to Central Districts in Napier on Thursday night was worse than it appeared in print. The Volts were never in the hunt with the bat. But there was some promising fight shown in the lower reaches of the order. Brad Wilson, with 32 not out, and Michael Rippon, who made 28, brought some respectability to the score and provided a reminder just how deep Otago bats.
Not so fast
Wellington pummelled Otago by a colossal 193 runs in round three of the Ford Trophy and some [read yours truly] were quick to write the team off. ‘‘The chase was calamitous, brief and, well, a little predictable,’’ the Otago Daily Times reported.
In hindsight, the game actually proved to be a catalyst which helped power the Volts on a four-game winning streak and into the final.
Every team has to deal with injuries but we have all seen how rubbish Australia is without its best two batsmen. Neil Broom’s absence — he is out with a fractured bone in his hand which has never carried sandpaper out to the middle — really does weaken the batting. The Volts are lucky to have someone as accomplished as Wilson batting at No9. But the top order is an anemic version of itself without the former international.
Three more wins
Coach Rob Walter reckons three more wins will be enough to get his side into the playoffs. When you look at who the Volts have left to play, the route to the playoffs is not some back alley with peril waiting beyond each bend. They have back-to-back games against Auckland — a team they beat twice during the one-day campaign — and a match against Canterbury, which is labouring at the bottom of the competition standings. Auckland, though, might show up to the University of Otago Oval tomorrow with Martin Guptill, Colin Munro and Glenn Phillips in tow. That will make it an altogether different prospect.
In the mixer
Otago is unlikely to make any changes for its match against Auckland. But a change the Volts would probably like to make would be to bring back Christi Viljoen and his golden arm. He has been Otago’s most frugal bowler in the tournament by a comfortable margin and, with seven wickets, he has been awfully successful as well. But the arrival of English import Ben Raine meant Viljoen did not fit the mix any more. He is a qualifying player, so he is competing for one of only three slots in the side. He could play ahead of South African-born wrist spinner Michael Rippon, but that would leave Otago without a specialist spinner. Former international spinner Mark Craig is sidelined with a back complaint, so he is not an option. One solution might be to give 18-year-old left-arm spinner Ben Lockrose a run in Rippon’s place — that way Viljoen can play. Lockrose was in tremendous form during the recent provincial A tri-series.
Northern Districts 16
Central Districts 10
Otago’s remaining games
Tomorrow: Auckland, University of Otago Oval
January 20: Auckland, Eden Park Outer Oval
January 27: Wellington, University of Otago Oval
February 2: Canterbury, Hagley Oval
February 9: Northern Districts, Bay Oval