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Central Stags push for first-class history

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Coming off a one-wicket thriller in Napier - a second victory on the bounce, the Central Stags are closing in on a successful defence of New Zealand’s first-class cricket championship, the Plunket Shield.

The annual contest for the revered trophy dates back to 1906/07 and, over the past 11 decades, title defences by other sides have peppered the history books at various intervals. Central Districts - as the team was originally known - only came into being in the middle of the 20th Century, however, and entered the competition for the first time in 1950/51. Remarkably, the rookies became New Zealand’s champion team just three years later, and, after the team won the title again in 1966/67, they successfully defended it the following season, in 1967/68.

Central has lifted the Plunket Shield seven more times since then, but should captain Greg Hay lift the trophy in Hamilton early next week it will be only the second time in New Zealand first-class history that the Stags have successfully defended the championship title.

If the Stags come out on top, it will also be the first time that the Central Stags have won a first-class (Plunket Shield) and T20 (Burger King Super Smash) national trophy in the same season. The last New Zealand domestic team to win titles in both the longest and shortest formats in the same summer was the Auckland Aces in 2015/16.

All this is hanging on the results coming over the next handful of days from the final match of the summer, which will also be Head Coach Heinrich Malan’s final match with the team. Before any celebrations or tributes can begin, however, the Stags must first win the 2018/19 competition.

With a maximum of 20 points available per round (eight first innings bonus points and 12 for an outright win; or six in the rare event of a tie), the Stags are heading into the final round (four days starting this Sunday 17 March 2019) with a strong 15-point advantage. Only one other team - Canterbury - remains in the hunt.

Six first-innings bonus points (possibly five, depending on Canterbury’s result and overall net run rates) or an outright victory will sew it up for the Stags, but they will also need to perform against a strong rival, Northern Districts, away at Seddon Park.

Canterbury, coming off three consecutive victories, including a nail-biter over the Stags in Round Five, meanwhile meets the Wellington Firebirds at the Basin Reserve. Showers are forecast for both matches, raising the intrigue factor, however, the forecast has been improving in the lead-up to the round.

The Stags have made one change to their squad, left-arm allrounder Ben Wheeler returning for Bevan Small. Dean Foxcroft remains in the thirteen, while Ben Smith remains bracketed with Will Young in the top order while the Stags, and the nation, awaits word of whether Young will be required to replace an injured Kane Williamson in the BLACKCAPS’ third Test against Bangladesh, which starts tomorrow (Saturday). Should Williamson be cleared to play, Young will likely be returned to the Stags, as in the previous two matches.

The final Plunket Shield match begins at 10.30am on Sunday and is free admission at all venues. All matches are live-scored at www.nzc.nz

STATCHAT

Doug Bracewell requires just one more wicket to reach 300 first-class career wickets (overall career)

Blair Tickner requires just four more wickets to reach 100 first-class career wickets (Tickner has 85 for Stags, 11 for NZ teams)

Ajaz Patel requires just two more wickets to reach 200 first-class wickets for the Central Stags alone (Patel has 13 other first-class wickets for NZ teams)

Captain Greg Hay needs just 30 runs to reach 5000 first-class runs for the Central Stags alone (having also scored 98 runs for NZA previously, Hay reached 5000 overall first-class career runs during his first half century against Northern Districts in Napier in Round Seven)

In his last eight innings, Hay has produced two centuries (226 in Alexandra and 158 in Napier, both against the Volts) and three half centuries. In the latest round, Hay climbed to second spot in the overall national run aggregates for the first-class season, his 586 runs at 53.27 now behind only Devon Conway’s 659 at 82.37 for the Firebirds.

PLUNKET SHIELD | Round Eight of Eight

NORTHERN DISTRICTS v CENTRAL STAGS

Seddon Park, Hamilton

10.30am Sunday 17 - Wednesday 20 March 2019

Free Admission

CENTRAL STAGS squad

Greg Hay (captain) - Nelson

Doug Bracewell - Hawke’s Bay

Tom Bruce - Taranaki

Dane Cleaver (wicketkeeper) - Manawatū

Dean Foxcroft - Hawke’s Bay

Kieran Noema-Barnett - Hawke’s Bay

Ryan McCone - Horowhenua-Kāpiti

Ajaz Patel - Hawke’s Bay

Seth Rance - Wairarapa

Blair Tickner - Hawke’s Bay

Ben Wheeler - Marlborough

George Worker - Manawatū

[ Will Young - Taranaki / Ben Smith - Whanganui ]

Head Coach - Heinrich Malan

Assistant Coach - Aldin Smith

Twitter updates: @CentralStags

Instagram updates: @CentralStags

Official hashtags: #PlunketShield #LoveTheStags

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