Opinion: This team at least on par with side of 1987-88

How good is this Otago team? Well, according to long-serving Otago scorer Malcolm Jones, and he has been in the job since 1986, it is at least on par with the Otago side which won the one-day and first-class tournaments in the summer of 1987-88.

Otago has not won the first-class competition since and the province had to wait 20 years before the Volts won the one-day tournament.

With every year that passed, the deeds of the 1987-88 side seemed to take on extra significance. But arguably the current crop has more depth. Otago keeps winning despite, it seems, losing the services of a player or two to the national side every other week.

And the team is not just be winning, it is annihilating the opposition.

Its past three Plunket Shield encounters have been one-sided affairs. Otago beat Wellington by an innings and a massive 240 runs, thrashed Northern Districts by eight wickets and dispatched Auckland by 10 wickets.

The team dominated the twenty/20 tournament, winning 10 games in a row to claim the title. That was a remarkable feat given how fickle twenty/20 can be and how elusive consistency is in the shortened format.

But while twenty/20 is good for the bank account and has a much higher profile than the Plunket Shield, first-class cricket remains the best way to measure a player's and a team's ability.

With one match remaining in the four-day competition, the Volts trail competition leader Central Districts by nine points. If Otago beats Wellington at the Basin Reserve this week, and Central fails to pick up an outright win against Northern Districts in Nelson, the Volts will win the first-class tournament for the first time in 25-years.

Victory will bring a lot kudos but, even if the province cannot bridge the gap, it has been a stellar campaign with many team and personal highlights. Everybody has found a way to contribute and that has enabled this Otago side to achieve tremendous consistency.

There is some confusion about how many games of cricket Otago has won in a row. While Otago won 10 consecutive games of twenty/20 and its past three four-day games, the winning streak stands at 12 not 13. Otago played a four-day match against Central Districts part way through the twenty/20 tournament and that game was drawn.

But the province can claim to be unbeaten since late November and, in 20 games in all formats this season, Otago has won 15, lost two and drawn three games.

Aaron Redmond (784 at 52.26), Neil Broom (622 at 51.91) and Hamish Rutherford (609 at 40.60) have all scored more than 600 first-class runs this season. Redmond's haul of 784 is the third-equal highest season tally by an Otago batsman and he still has a match remaining.

Glenn Turner holds the record with 1027 runs in the summer of 1975-76.

Ian Butler is Otago's leading wicket-taker with 36 at 23.52 and Neil Wagner (24 at 25.62) and Sam Wells (17 at 23.88) have also been effective.

It has been an outstanding summer so far but, arguably, the gold standard of Otago teams were the sides which won five first-class titles from 1969-70 to 1978-79. Those teams featured some of the very best players to slip on the whites for Otago - players such as Turner, Warren Lees, Stephen Boock, Gren Alabaster and Murray Webb.

For those of you with longer memories, the Otago teams of the late 1940s and 1950s were successful thanks to players such as the incomparable Bert Sutcliffe, Frank Cameron, Alex Moir and Lankford Smith. Otago won four first-class titles from 1947-48 to 1957-58.

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