Viljoen returns to Otago side for crucial clash

Christie Viljoen.
Christie Viljoen
Otago has boosted its batting and brought back a leading performer for its crucial Super Smash match against Auckland at Eden Park Outer Oval tomorrow.

Medium-pacer Christi Viljoen returns to the game-day squad after being overlooked since round three despite impressing with the ball.

Viljoen was Otago’s leading wicket-taker at the time but the arrival of English professional Ben Raine meant the 31-year-old South African-born player no longer fitted into the mix.

With teams limited to three slots for a combination of overseas and qualifying players, Otago was essentially left to chose between left-arm wrist spinner Michael Rippon and Viljoen.

But with Eden Park Outer Oval not expected to offer the slow bowlers any assistance, Viljoen has been brought back at the expense of Rippon.

"The history of the ground suggests seam bowling is more effective than spin bowling to a large degree," Volts coach Rob Walter said.

"We needed to strengthen our bowling unit and Christi was one of our best in the first few games. We needed to find a way to get him back in to the side and this was an opportunity to do that."

Rip [Rippon] has been a standout performer for us all season, particularly in the Ford Trophy. 

"I have no doubt that he will play a role for us again in this campaign."

Left-arm spinner Ben Lockrose has been pressing for a spot with some excellent performances for Otago A, but Walter felt Rippon was at the top of list.

"Ben is definitely part of our discussions every time we sit down. We know he is rolling well at the moment which is great because it gives us another option.

"But we can’t overlook what Michael Rippon did for us this season in short-format cricket."

Former international spinner Mark Craig has been sidelined most of the season with a back complaint but has returned to the bowling crease this week. He is, however, unlikely to feature in the Super Smash.

"T20 cricket is intense. It involves a lot of running and a lot of diving and we need to know that he is physically going to be able to cope."

In the other change,seamer Matt Bacon drops out to make room for top-order batsman Josh Tasman-Jones who  impressed recently for Otago A with a century in a one-day match. He can also bowl a bit and will give the side another option.

• Otago A will look to continue its impressive form when it plays Southland in a three-day match in Invercargill beginning today.

The team won a tri-series against sides from Canterbury and Auckland in Lincoln earlier this month. Otago A: Will Kindley, Brad Kneebone, Mitch Renwick, Fraser Colson, Cam Jackson, Hunter Kindley, Max Chu, Travis Muller, Tommy Clout, Ryan Whelan, Matt Bacon, Bailey Andrews-Kennedy.


Men’s Super Smash

Otago v Auckland
Eden Park Outer Oval, today, 12.30pm

Otago: Hamish Rutherford (co-captain), Shawn Hicks, Anaru Kitchen, Ben Raine, Ben Cox, Josh Finnie, Nathan Smith, Brad Wilson, Christi Viljoen, Jacob Duffy (co-captain), Jack Hunter, Josh Tasman-Jones.

Auckland (possible): Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Glenn Phillips, Mark Chapman, Craig Cachopa (captain), Robert O’Donnell, Donovan Grobbelaar, Roneel Hira, Will Somerville, Lockie Ferguson, Mitchell McClenaghan, Matthew Quinn.

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