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Stags Look To Roar In First-class Plunket Shield

At least one Central Stags first-class debut is in store for the team’s penultimate Plunket Shield match of the season, with the Stags one of just four teams left in a tight race for the coveted New Zealand title.

Fresh off an important outright victory over Canterbury, two uncapped players have been named in the twelve to host the Otago Volts in another pivotal match at Fitzherbert Park, Palmerston North this week from 10.30am on Tuesday.

Ex-Canterbury representative and top order batsman Jack Boyle comes into Central’s Plunket Shield squad for the first time, having played three one-day Ford Trophy matches earlier this summer - with the team to play their cyclone-rescheduled Ford Trophy Grand Final against Canterbury on 28 March at Napier’s McLean Park, in between their last two Plunket Shield rounds.

After debuting in the 2016/17 season, Boyle accrued 21 first-class appearances for Canterbury with a career best of 108, and steps up for the Stags for the first time alongside Hawke’s Bay teammate, uncapped young right-armer Toby Findlay.

It’s the first time Findlay, a 19-year-old CD Under 19 and former CD Under 17 representative, has been named in a Stags squad in any format, coming into the squad alongside Boyle and Manawatu’s homegrown Curtis Heaphy who were all in action for Central Districts A last week in a hard fought nailbiter against Northern Districts A in Levin.

The Central Stags will have a game in hand after this week’s eighth round of the season - normally the final round of the first-class season. The team’s fifth-round match against the Auckland Aces was originally to have been contested in Napier in February, but Cyclone Gabrielle saw that clash postponed and shifted to 1-4 April at Nelson’s Saxton Oval.

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With a maximum of 20 points available from each match, including first innings points for reaching batting and bowling targets inside 110 overs, the Stags can reach a maximum of 107 points on the championship table.

Current leader Canterbury can reach 103, and the only other team ahead of the Stags, Northern Districts, can reach 99.

The Stags grabbed 18 of the possible 20 points from their stunning six-wicket Plunket Shield victory in Rangiora, while Canterbury saw their lead on the ladder slashed to just four points.

With the Stags’ premier allrounder Doug Bracewell having been called into the BLACKCAPS Test squad, Nelson’s Josh Clarkson stepped up in the big match with his maiden first-class century (119 off 146 balls).

He followed it up with his first-class career best bowling, removing two key wickets to open the gate for the team to snaffle the last six Canterbury wickets for a cost of just 14 runs and bring the chance of victory into focus.

The Stags needed to chase down 141 to win, Clarkson’s aggression with the bat keeping the team on target in the last session.

Already established as one of the hardest hitters in New Zealand white-ball cricket, the 26-year-old showed he could treat the red ball with equal disdain, blasting 44 not out off just 22 balls in the second innings, fittingly striking the winning boundary to rocket the Stags back up the table.

This week’s opponent, the Otago Volts, meanwhile dropped out of contention in last week’s round, after a drawn result with the Auckland Aces (whose own title hopes remain alive, just) in Alexandra.

However, the Stags won’t be taking lightly a side that features such names as Dean Foxcroft, Hamish Rutherford and Jacob Duffy.

The match is free admission at Fitzherbert Park from Tuesday until Friday, with livescores and a free livestream at www.cdcricket.co.nz, with the Central Districts A team will meanwhile be in action in a three-dayer against Wellington A at Johnsonville’s Alex Moore Park, the last CD A fixture of the 2022/23 season.

Horowhenua-Kapiti representatives Zack Benton and Bailey Te Tomo make their first appearance in a CD A squad while Hawke’s Bay’s Sam Cassidy is named in the squad after having got his CD A debut as a COVID-19 substitute player against Northern District A at Lindisfarne College last summer.

The Central Districts Māori squad to attend the inaugural National Men’s Māori Tournament in Whangārei at Easter will be named on 26 March.

© Scoop Media

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