Otago under-19 blessed with strong spin-bowling stocks

Adam Miles
Adam Miles
Come in, spinner.

Otago has a healthy stock of slow bowlers in its ranks who will be hoping the wickets turn square at the national under-19 tournament which gets under way in Lincoln tomorrow.

It can also call on a core group of experienced players who have enjoyed success at this level.

Hunter Kindley, Max Chu, Llew Johnson and Ben Lockrose helped their province claim the title in 2016-17 and are back for another shot.

Kindley will captain the team and he will have a point to prove after a terrible run with injury.

He was the tournament's leading scorer in 2016-17 with 306 runs at an average of 51. The right-arm off-spinner picked up seven wickets as well.

But he fractured his ankle during the final and was not able to take his place in the New Zealand under-18 team. Then earlier this year a shoulder injury ruled him out of the under-19 World Cup team.

''He had a very successful tournament a couple of years ago ... and he will be an important part of our spin bowling line-up as well,'' coach Adam Miles said.

Lockrose shapes as the leading spinner, though. The left-armer grabbed 11 wickets at an average of 18.09 two years ago and has gone on to play for Otago in all three formats.

Nathan Hastie is another left-arm spinner who has been successful at age-group representative level.

There are a couple of wrist spinners in the squad as well in Jack Mockford and Blair Donaldson.

''We've certainly got enough spin. We're only taking away three seamers this year.

''We have really strong spin bowling stocks and that tends to suit this tournament, particularly as the week wears on. But there are not masses and masses of seam bowlers out there in the under-19 age group.

''That is something we're going to focus on in the next couple of years - bolstering our seam bowling stocks.''

Mason James will spearhead the seam attack. He is a right-arm swing bowler who has played Hawke Cup cricket for North Otago.

He will have assistance from Charlie Holt and Michael Ruske, who will look to hit the deck hard and extract some life from the pitch.

Ruske is also part on the under-17 programme.

Otago back-up keeper Max Chu will open the batting. He has been in good form at club level this season.

He played in a three-day game for a New Zealand XI side against Sri Lanka recently and made a fighting and undefeated 33 at No10.

Johnson will bat at No4. He made his provincial debut for Otago last summer in a twenty20 match and is highly rated.

The format this season involves each team playing five one-dayers followed by three twenty20 matches.

Otago gets its campaign under way with a one-dayer against Northern Districts in Lincoln tomorrow.

''Our aim is to compete and take each game of cricket deep,'' Miles said.

''I'll be very happy if we are still in games in the 96th and 97th over. That will give the guys the best chance of developing ... and ultimately that is what the tournament is about.''

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