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Promising young cricket players to get first-class opportunity

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Two of Wellington’s most promising young players are likely to be given their first-class debuts when the Wellington Firebirds begin their Plunket Shield clash with Northern Districts in Hamilton tomorrow.

Fast bowler Ben Sears and batsmen Jakob Bhula have both been selected in the Firebirds squad for the four-day match at Seddon Park following promising displays in white ball cricket and the absence of Ford Trophy captain Hamish Bennett and all-rounder Jimmy Neesham, who have been called up to the New Zealand A squad to face India A this week.

Bhula made headlines in January, breaking the record for the highest individual score for a batsman at the ICC Under 19 World Cup with 180 from 104 balls. He showed he was more than capable of stepping up to List A level with a well-made 99 against the Central Stags in in November.

The 18-year-old said he was relishing the opportunity to play first-class cricket.

"I’m excited about testing my skills in the four-day environment. It’s not an area I’ve been exposed to much, but I’m really looking forward to constructing an innings without the scoreboard pressure of 50-over cricket."

Sears, another New Zealand Under 19 international, produced some fierce bowling spells throughout the Ford Trophy campaign, coming away with best figures of three for 42, and justifying his selection as one of Wellington’s 16 contracted players.

Firebirds head coach Bruce Edgar, who took on an advisor’s role alongside Glenn Pocknall for the Ford Trophy campaign, stressed the importance of his side moving on from their title-winning heroics and switching focus to longer-form cricket.

"We’ve had to adapt quickly to the change of format. With limited training time between the final and this match we’ve had to re-focus and get set for the challenges ahead against ND," he said.

"We haven’t had a lot of time to prepare, but that’s the price of being successful in the one-day format. Having experienced guys like Jeetan and Luke coming back in to the team will really help with that shift in mentality."

Jeetan Patel and Luke Woodcock return to the Plunket Shield squad after being rested for the Ford Trophy campaign and Alex Ridley is selected again following his promising form last season.

The absence of Hamish Bennett who was the Firebirds leading wicket-taker in the Ford Trophy leaves a void to be filled and with it an opportunity for the experienced pace duo of Iain McPeake and Ollie Newton to step up, as well as for the young Sears to prove himself at first-class level.

Michael Bracewell will take over the reigns as captain in the first-class arena and Andrew Fletcher, a star of the Ford Trophy campaign, will be looking to continue his dream debut professional season.

Devon Conway will also be eager to spend time at the crease after his memorable double-century against Otago in October. The 27-year-old has been dismissed just once this Plunket Shield season and has struck 36 boundaries - more than any other player.

The results are split in the last six fixtures between Northern Districts and Wellington with each side posting two wins; Northern Districts claiming the spoils the last time the teams met, winning by an innings and 56 runs.

The match begins at 10.30am tomorrow at Seddon Park. Spectators entry is free.

Wellington Firebirds squad | Plunket Shield | Round Three

Jakob Bhula

Michael Bracewell (captain)

Devon Conway

Andrew Fletcher

Lauchie Johns

Iain McPeake

Ollie Newton

Malcolm Nofal

Jeetan Patel

Alex Ridley

Ben Sears

Luke Woodcock

Plunket Shield Round Three

Northern Districts v Wellington Firebirds

Thursday 6 Nov - Sunday 9 Nov

Seddon Park, Hamilton

Live scoring: visit nzc.nz

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