Players backed for another match despite disappointing result

You don’t change a losing team.

Wait, what?

Stay with us. It makes perfect sense.

Otago was humbled by an innings and 129 runs at Eden Park Outer Oval last week.

Even without the bonus of playing an extra bowler in the first innings thanks to the Covid-19 replacement rule, Auckland would have still been too good in what was the opening game of the season for both sides.

It is not unusual for the Volts to fall over in the first game of the summer.

They started the Plunket Shield with a heavy loss last season and were on the back foot immediately in 2018-09 as well.

October is hardly a halcyon month for batting, so that never helps.

But being bowled out for just 54 in the second innings was a special kind of failure.

It is the sort of dismal beginning that can eat away at the confidence of a side which actually played very decent four-day cricket towards the end of the last campaign.

Tossing people aside now would only help entrench any gains doubt has made and coach Rob Walter is determined to avoid that outcome.

And he is not spoilt for choice either.

Veteran right-hander Neil Broom is unavailable for red-ball cricket and South African-born all-rounder Dean Foxcroft is unable to return to New Zealand to take his place in the side because of border restrictions.

Promising batsman Beckham Wheeler-Greenall is unavailable this week but will come into consideration for later games.

Unless Walter goes outside the contracted group, that leaves Dale Phillips and Josh Finnie as the only potential candidates.

Finnie is better suited to limited-overs cricket and did not play any first-class cricket last season, and Phillips has just 41 runs from three first-class games.

Neither mounts a compelling case for inclusion.

The other option Walter could investigate is playing Mitch Renwick as a specialist keeper, dropping leading gloveman Max Chu and promoting Finnie or Phillips to lengthen the batting.

But Chu was one of the better performed players with the bat in the loss to Auckland, so it was probably not a thought which took up much of a mortgage in Walter’s mind.

The only real way forward is to back the players he has for another match or two and that is what he has done.

That does not mean he will not tinker with the order. Captain Hamish Rutherford dropped down to No4 to help spread the batting experience.

Anaru Kitchen opened alongside Camden Hawkins. Ideally, Kitchen would bat further down the order where he can employ his attacking style of cricket with a bit more impunity.

Fellow opener Hawkins had a double failure at Eden Park Outer Oval but was not alone.

Renwick made a pair, Nick Kelly scored one run from two innings and Rutherford did not reach double figures in either innings.

Against a star-studded Northern Districts attack of Neil Wagner, Tim Southee, Colin de Grandhomme, Scott Kuggeleijn and Ish Sodhi the Otago top order will face a stern challenge.

The game starts at Mount Maunganui today at 10.30am.

■ The first day of the match between Otago A and Canterbury A in Rangiora was washed out because of rain.

Otago v ND

Mount Maunganui, 10.30am
Otago: Anaru Kitchen, Camden Hawkins, Mitchell Renwick, Hamish Rutherford (c), 
Nick Kelly, Nathan Smith, Michael Rippon, Max Chu, Jacob Duffy, Michael Rae, Travis 
Muller, Matt Bacon.
Northern Districts: Colin de Grandhomme, Henry Cooper, Ish Sodhi, James Baker, 
Jeet Raval, Joe Walker, Joe Carter (c), Katene Clarke, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Scott 
Kuggeleijn, Tim Southee.

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