Otago poor in first-class game

Brad Wilson plays a shot at the Oval. Photo: Getty Images
Brad Wilson plays a shot at the Oval. Photo: Getty Images
Otago made a welcome appearance in the one-day final but finished fourth in the Super Smash. And the Plunket Shield was almost all bad. Cricket writer Adrian Seconi reviews a mixed season.

New Zealand Cricket might have downgraded the first-class game to a development tournament but it remains the best measure of a player's ability. And Otago was found wanting by that measure.

The Volts avoided a winless Plunket Shield season with victory against Wellington in round seven, but the previous six straight losses were painful.

The batting was pitiful and bowling sometimes only marginally better. Matt Bacon helped saved Otago's blushes with a 10-wicket haul in the three-wicket win against Wellington.

The strike bowler grabbed 16 wickets in the last two matches. The late flurry meant the right-arm medium pacer became one of the leading wicket-takers nationally. He finished third with 31 wickets at an average of 24.61. He will have to work on his economy rate of 3.80, though. It was way too high.

Experienced opening batsman Hamish Rutherford was Otago's leading scorer in all three formats.

He stroked an excellent century in round one against a Northern Districts bowling unit which included Black Caps Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Colin de Grandhomme and Ish Sodhi.

The left-hander's season first-class total of 535 runs at an average of 41.15 was more than respectable.

His burgeoning partnership with Cam Hawkins at the top of the order netted two 100-run stands.

Beneath them the collective of Shawn Hicks, Josh Tasman-Jones and Josh Finnie offered precious few runs. They got shuffled around towards the end of the season as the Volts looked for a way to squeeze what they could from a very inexperienced order.

Brad Wilson's absence during that period was a bit of a mystery. He helped settle the middle order when included late.

Injuries to former international spinner Mark Craig and fast bowler Michael Rae stripped the Volts of some potency at the crease.

Co-captain Jacob Duffy was charged with picking up the slack. He was wonderful with a white ball but less than marvelous with the red cherry. His haul of 17 at 46.82 was disappointing.

Leg-spinner Michael Rippon followed a similar pattern to Duffy. They were both crucial in steering Otago through to the one-day final, though.

It has to be said the Ford Trophy was the weakest of the three formats. Many of the country's leading players were either on national duty or playing for New Zealand A while the Volts had a full roster until Hamish Rutherford was called up for New Zealand A late in the tournament.

They could have used him in the final against Wellington. The Volts slumped to 57 for seven but scrambled to reached 234 for eight. Rippon (82) and Christi Viljoen (87 not out) gave their side a fighting chance.

Rippon snared two crucial wickets as well but the visiting side escaped with a tense three-wicket win.

The Volts took momentum into the twenty20 competition but that was snuffed out on a sticky wicket in Alexandra and a couple of rained-out games. They finished fourth after coming last the previous two seasons.

With Wilson retiring and Warren Barnes taking an indefinite break from the game, Otago will be looking for two replacements players.

Hawkins will almost certainly pick up one of the contracts, while spinner Ben Lockrose and keeper Max Chu would be worth a punt as well.

However, Otago ought to go further. Its roster needs a shake-up. There are too many good players sitting idle around the country for the Volts not to get busy during the recruitment window.

Power rankings

For 2018-19

Hamish Rutherford
Role: Top-order batsman
Grade: A
The oil: Otago’s leading scorer in all
three formats.

Jacob Duffy
Role: Bowler, co-captain
Grade: A-
The oil: Terrific in coloured clothing.
Laboured with the red ball.

Matt Bacon
Role: Bowler
Grade: A-
The oil: Emerged as a genuine strike
bowler. Economy is on the high side

Nathan Smith
Role: All-rounder
Grade: B+
The oil: Showed promise with the bat
and bowled during some tough
periods. Gritty.

Mitch Renwick
Role: Wicketkeeper-batsman
Grade: B
The oil: Scored a breakthrough century
in the last game.

Christi Viljoen
Grade: B
The oil: Played really well in patches.
Underrated campaigner.

Neil Broom
Role: Batsman
Grade: B
The oil: Capable of so much better but
solid enough numbers.

Brad Wilson
Role: Top-order batsman
Grade: B
The oil: Made good contributions in
coloured clothing when selected.

Michael Rippon
Role: All-rounder
Grade: B
The oil: Excellent in the one-day
competition. Very average thereafter.

Anaru Kitchen
Role: All-rounder
Grade: C
The oil: Disappointing campaign from
a senior professional.

Josh Finnie
Role: Batsman
Grade: C-
The oil: Played some nice one-day
knocks at the death but otherwise poor.

Shawn Hicks
Role: Batsman
Grade: C-
The oil: Lost form in all three formats.

Josh Tasman-Jones
Grade: C-
The oil: The rookie found the step up
very steep.

Warren Barnes
Role: Bowler
Grade: C-
The oil: Struggled with injury and never
reached potential.

Mark Craig
Role: Bowler, co-captain
The oil: No grade. Spent most of the
season injured.

Michael Rae
Role: Bowler
The oil: Injured. Missed the entire

Only the performances of the contracted players were assessed.


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