Mid Canterbury cricketers up for the challenge

Mid Canterbury skipper Matt Winter.

It’s been a long time in between drinks, but Mid Canterbury cricket returns to the big time today at Queens Park in Invercargill to have a crack at one of New Zealand cricket’s most prized possessions, the Hawke Cup.

And if the Cup is to make its way back to Ashburton for the first time since 2004, then it’s going to come down to one aspect of the game, getting runs on the board with the bat.

That’s the view of the side’s coach, Garfield Charles as he too prepares for one of his biggest challenges in the sport.

“It’s pretty basic, we’re going to have to score some runs, and bat for a bit of time.

“We’ve got to a three-day format this weekend, which is a new thing for most of our players and you can’t really do much coaching on that side of things, it’s more down to individual application from players,” he said.

Opening bats, Matt Winter and Nick Gilbert, will be asked the question first, but there is some depth to the Mid Canterbury line-up through the likes of Will Southby, Des Kruger, James Southby, Archie Redfern and Matt Tait.

But with the ball in hand is where Mid Canterbury have been most lethal this season, so the mind shift to getting the maximum out of the willow will be interesting.

“Not in our favour there is that we’re playing a side who themselves are very good with the bat.

“But they are also stacked with spin bowlers, which gives a pretty good indication of what kind of pitch we are going to be greeted with.”

It’s those sort of factors where Garfield is going to have to look to his senior players to help guide the younger, less experienced minds through the occasion.

A lot of that responsibility will fall on the shoulders of captain, Matt Winter – but he does have some more than qualified allies amongst his team-mates.

Des Kruger made his Hawke Cup debut in 2006 while still at school and Nick

Gilbert has been a frequent figure in the side for the best part of the last decade as well.

While experience is golden in any circumstance, it might just be a relative newcomer to the scene who holds the key to success.

Richard Turpie’s name has been bandied about in the cricketing scene for a few years now.

His exploits as an age group player is almost unparalleled in these parts, with Canterbury selections and even higher honours falling his way.

But this season, it’s been Mid Canterbury who have benefited the most from his skillset.

He demolished Otago Country in a second innings spell of bowling that would have made any international cricketer proud with figures of 8-13, and then backed that up with 5-25 in the first innings against North Otago to help his side to the required first inning points needed to make it to this next stage of the competition.

On a wicket that looks like it will be spin-bowler friendly, Turpie’s challenge along with Mid Canterbury’s other speed merchants will be to extricate something from it that works in their favour with Southland a notoriously strong batting side.

“They bat deep and they bat long,” Charles said.

“And that’s going to be a big challenge for our bowlers and it may require some to step up and play one of those roles which turn a game on its head to bring us into contention.

“We’ve got the sort of players that can do that, no doubt.”

While Turpie will be lay integral role, the contributions of Alex Hooper, Deon Biggs, Jay Houston and Sean Stagg will be equally as valuable.

But it could be a player like James Southby – a noted spinner, who could be expected to give the most overs for his side.

“James has all the right attributes, but he’s still honing his craft a bit, so we might have to throw him into the deep end this week and ask a fair bit of him.”

Charles said the side had enjoyed four trainings together to prepare for the match and he felt his side was as ready as it would ever be for the challenge.

“We don’t have to hammer home to them how important this match is, or just how big of an occasion it’s going to be for them.

“They know, we’ve just been there to help them be as ready as they possibly can be for the moment.”

Play begins today in Invercargill and will run through to Sunday.

-Ashburton Guardian.