Shield hopes alive for Central Stags
YOU don’t need to tell Jamie How how rare it is for Central Districts to be in a position like this.
The 31-year-old’s Plunket Shield career dates back to 2000 and in that time he’s never known the joy of lifting domestic cricket’s premier trophy.
The closest the opening batsman came was the summer of 2005-06. How was CD captain that season, but missed their 113-run win over Wellington in the decider because he was on a New Zealand tour of South Africa.
There was another final in April 2009, but Auckland were five-wicket winners over CD that time round.
The days of finals are gone, but CD are set to play in what amounts to one when they meet Northern Districts at Nelson, starting tomorrow. The Stags lead the Plunket Shield by nine points over Otago and need to win to ensure they claim the New Zealand first-class title for just the eighth time.
How was at pains to point out that nothing’s been won yet. The Stags might lead going into the last round, but there are no prizes for that.
Still, when pressed, How did concede a certain satisfaction at seeing the team get this far.
‘‘We haven’t traditionally done that well in four-day cricket. In my time we’ve been stronger at the limited overs versions of the game and we appreciate how hard it is to win any four-day game, let alone a championship,’’ How said.
On paper this would seem an unlikely CD side to be contending for this title and How was prepared to acknowledge that he might have played in some Stags teams that boasted bigger names with more runs on the board.
‘‘It’s pretty hard to compare. Obviously the results of this team speak for themselves,’’ he said.
‘‘But, yeah, I think it’s probably a fair assessment. Maybe this is a team that’s on the rise, where someone like Carl Cachopa could be a Black Cap in the not too distant future.
‘‘The old dog like Skip [Mathew Sinclair] is still there and the young pups like Will Young, so there’s a good little spread of youth and experience and it’s been a good squad performance up till now.’’
How rattled off the names of Andrew Lamb, Andrew Mathieson, Ajaz Patel and Tarun Nethula to illustrate his point. None are world beaters yet, but they’ve all bowled well in support when spearheads Adam Milne and Doug Bracewell have been available.
The other critical component in getting this far has been team spirit. If you’re Palmerston Northbased like How, you can go a whole season without actually playing in your home town, and spending that much time on the road does shorten a few fuses.
‘‘That’s usually the barometer of our dressing [room] – the wins. When things don’t go so well things can quickly turn to custard.’’
How misses a few of the familiar faces he came into first-class cricket with but said the enthusiasm, and occasional naivety, of his younger team-mates kept him on his toes. Besides, in manager and assistant coach Lance Hamilton, there’s always someone eager to relive the good old days.
‘‘We try to ensure that the young guys appreciate what’s gone before them and even if they don’t want to hear them, the old Stags’ stories get shoved down their throat a bit.’’
This week that includes being reminded how infrequently opportunities to win the four-day title come around.
‘‘Any first-class cricketer would admit that those are the ones they treasure when they hang up their boots. As Skip would say, it’s a war of nutrition,’’ How joked at the expense of his long-time teammate.
‘‘It’s a season-long process and we’ve had many years of not being in contention, so to get to the end and still be in the hunt makes it a lot easier to strap on your boots.’’