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Black Caps star returns for Pukekura Park showdown

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

They won cricket’s one-day Ford Trophy at Pukekura Park two years ago, and last summer the Central Stags hosted New Zealand’s televised T20 Grand Final at the New Plymouth showpiece as the red hot top qualifier.

Now the Stags are ready to roar at the historic terraced ground for four holiday season T20s over the next fortnight - and not just because they love playing to a home crowd.

The Stags have won two from two on the road in this summer’s Burger King Super Smash competition heading into tomorrow afternoon’s clash with the Knights and, while some teams might be happy with a start like that early doors - the Otago Volts, for instance, who are yet to get a win - for traditional front-runners the Stags, their past success has turned into something of a thorn after losing a sweep of proven performers in Doug Bracewell, Tom Bruce, Adam Milne, Seth Rance and George Worker to the BLACKCAPS over the last couple of weeks, along with the stellar Ross Taylor whose appearances in green are treasured and few.

The good news is that after a couple of shock early season losses, the Stags are coming off an impressive win in Mount Maunganui and top order star George Worker is back after being named today in the twelve for tomorrow’s big rematch with the Knights.

Fresh from two half centuries against the West Indies and set to reunite with big-hitting opening partner Jesse Ryder - who likewise has been in outstanding touch this summer, Worker has an exceptional track record at Pukekura Park in both forms of the white-ball game.

Captain Will Young says it’s just the x-factor his side will need against a competitive Knights side who have posted their two highest totals in the history of the competition in the last few weeks, and won’t waste too much time licking their wounds after the 49-run loss that the Stags inflicted at Bay Oval on Wednesday night.

"The Knights are a very dangerous side," cautions Taranaki scion Young, "and we expect them to bounce back straight away for this rematch at Pukekura Park. It’s an important game for both sides so it should be a great game."

After getting through training unscathed at their Taranaki home base this morning, there were strong indications that tomorrow’s crowd will need to be ready to catch the ball as it flies into the terraces - which is the objective of T20 cricket, after all, while new pace bowling star Blair Tickner will relish the challenge after good performances last season, when he also became one of the very few men in the competition’s history to have claimed a Twenty20 hat-trick.

"Ticks had an oustanding game at the Mount so he’s fired up for more and it’s great having George back in the group, too," says Young. "George brings experience and that x-factor to the top of the batting order but also his spin bowling has historically been really good at Pukekura Park, too."

Young can also take considerable heart from the fact his new-look band of men got a key win without the likes of hard-hitting Worker in their midst.

"That was a huge win for us at Bay Oval, no doubt about it. We were able to put together a full team performance when we really needed it, and that was especially pleasing as a lot of our T20 regulars are away with the BLACKCAPS."

A win tomorrow will elevate the Stags into second equal on the points table behind current leaders the Auckland Aces, whom they will have a chance to overstake next week in their following (televised) match at Pukekura Park on 4 January. Tomorrow’s match against the Knights begins at 4pm with gates open at 3pm. The Central Districts Cricket Association is advising spectators to arrive in plenty of time with a large walk-up crowd anticipated.

Central Stags squad to play the Knights 4pm 30 Dec at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth

Will Young - Captain George Worker Jesse Ryder Ben Smith Dane Cleaver - wicketkeeper

Josh Clarkson Christian Leopard Ryan McCone Bevan Small Ben Wheeler Ajaz Patel Blair Tickner

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