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Doug Bracewell returns to Stags for super showdown

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Central Stags have regained the services of BLACKCAP Doug Bracewell heading into this Friday’s sudden death Burger King Super Smash Elimination Final - but will be missing two frontline performers after a double blow at training yesterday.

T20 star Blair Tickner, who made his eye-catching BLACKCAPS T20 debut earlier this week, has been ruled out after spraining his ankle during warm-ups at the squad’s training session in Napier yesterday.

Last summer’s top wicket-taker nationally, Tickner has once again been one of the competition’s leading wicket-takers this season. His 15 wickets from eight games places him second-equal nationally for 2018/19, alongside Auckland Ace Mitch McClenaghan and behind only Canterbury King Kyle Jamieson whose tally off 22 was turbo-boosted by a phenomenal 6-7 against the Aces.

Meanwhile exciting young power hitter Josh Clarkson, who possesses one of the competition’s higher strike rates at 146.23, is also out of the Finals with a torn muscle in his groin, sustained as he was bowling in the nets at the same training session, ahead of the team’s arrival in Auckland this morning.

Clarkson is replaced in the squad by deeply experienced allrounder Kieran Noema-Barnett, veteran of 116 T20 games (69 for the Central Stags, with the balance for Gloucestershire (41) and the Otago Volts (6)).

Noema-Barnett is coming off a red-ball century (128) on Tuesday for Central Districts A against a strong Auckland A team in a Plunket Shield warm-up at Auckland’s Lloyd Elsmore Park. Willem Ludick, who carried the drinks in Round 10, meanwhile departs the squad to play in Nelson’s Hawke Cup challenge against Southland in the countdown to the resumption of the first-class Plunket Shield next week.

Even without Tickner, a pace posse of Bracewell, Adam Milne, Seth Rance and left-armer Ben Wheeler - all of whom who have represented the BLACKCAPS in the last 12 months, puts the Stags in good heart heading into the vital playoff that begins at 4.10pm tomorrow.

It’s the second season in a row that the Stags have travelled to Eden Park Outer Oval for the 2v3 knockout Final against the Auckland Aces - and they are aiming to dish up a similar result to last summer’s playoff in which they defeated the Aces by 36 runs to proceed to the Burger King Super Smash Grand Final in Hamilton, with eight of that side returning for this year’s 2v3 playoff.

The Stags qualified for the Elimination Final after rebounding from a slow start to their T20 season. After a useful first-round away win over defending champions the Knights, the Stags lost two on the bounce at Pukekura Park before a washout in Dunedin further threatened their chances. However, last year’s Grand Finalists stormed back through the middle stages of the competition before dropping Round 10 to the Aces last weekend.

Opening batsman George Worker’s aggressive half century got the team off to a flier in that match, but the team failed to capitalise on its strong start. He says the squad has the experience and ability to bounce back tomorrow.

"It was nice to contribute personally in the last round, but everyone in our squad has contributed at some stage during the season," Worker said as the team assembled in Auckland.

"It feels like another good team performance is just round the corner, and obviously most of us have been in this [playoff] situation before and come up with the result, so we’re feeling confident heading into an exciting Elimination Final against a good side tomorrow."

After a lean start to his Burger King Super Smash season, Worker has fired up at precisely the right time for his side with scores of 44 off 24 balls against the Wellington Firebirds and 52 off 43 balls against the Aces in his last two innings.

"It’s certainly been nice to get some time in the middle heading into the final stages," says Worker.

"As we all know, T20 can be a pretty fickle game and with us playing only once a week this season, it’s been harder to get some momentum going."

Worker said while it was a shame that Tickner and Clarkson would be missing from tomorrow’s line-up after having dug deep for the team across the campaign, "It will be nice to have Dougie [Bracewell] back for a decider and we will still be going in confident that every man on the park can do the job."

The winner of tomorrow afternoon’s Elimination Final will meet defending champions the Knights who have qualified top for the second successive season. Should the Stags win, they will travel direct from Auckland to Hamilton for the Burger King Super Smash Grand Final which will be played on Sunday evening at Seddon Park, just two days after the Elimination Final. Both the Elimination and Grand Finals will be televised live on SKY Sport and broadcast on Radio Sport.

The Stags will train at Eden Park Outer Oval today between 2pm and 4pm under Assistant Coach Aldin Smith, who takes over primary coaching duties for this match from Head Coach Heinrich Malan who is assisting the BLACKCAPS this week.

Burger King Super Smash tickets are available at Ticketek.

BURGER KING SUPER SMASH ELIMINATION FINAL

AUCKLAND ACES v CENTRAL STAGS

EDEN PARK OUTER OVAL | AUCKLAND

4.10PM Friday 15 February 2019

CENTRAL STAGS

Tom Bruce (c) - Taranaki

Doug Bracewell - Hawke’s Bay

Dane Cleaver (w) - Manawatū

Dean Foxcroft - Hawke’s Bay

Adam Milne - Manawatū

Kieran Noema-Barnett - Hawke’s Bay

Ajaz Patel - Hawke’s Bay

Seth Rance - Wairarapa

Bevan Small - Manawatū

Ben Wheeler - Marlborough

George Worker - Manawatū

Will Young - Taranaki

Coach - Aldin Smith

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