South Canterbury representative cricketers are set to move from artificial wickets on the West Coast to first-class venues further south with the change of Hawke Cup boundaries.
Under New Zealand Cricket’s long-awaited restructure, South Canterbury will move into the Otago district a move that has pleased players and administrators.
This means South Canterbury will face Southland, Otago Country, North Otago and Mid-Canterbury in their Hawke Cup elimination matches.
Nelson and Marlborough have been brought into the Canterbury district replacing Mid and South Canterbury, rather than crossing Cook Strait to play against other Central Districts teams.
South Canterbury coach Richard Davidson is delighted with the outcome.
The new boundaries mean tougher competition, but far better cricket venues which he believes will help lift the standard of play.
“Replacing West Coast and Buller with Central and Southland will certainly be a real challenge.”
Although no draws have been made it should also mean two home games and two away games, he said.
Davidson said that, with changes in timing, the elimination games are likely to be played in February rather than struggling on pitches in November. “It should produce better cricket.
“Also it will be marvellous to be playing on first class pitches in the likes of Molyneux Park in Central and Queens Park in Invercargill.”
Former South Canterbury Cricket chairman Harvey King said the minor associations had fought for the changes for some time and the new structure made far more financial sense.
“New Zealand Cricket wanted teams to play in their major associations, but it wasn’t financially viable for Nelson and Marlborough to cross Cook Strait all the time just to play teams in Central Districts and they were being subsidised by New Zealand Cricket to do so.
“That money can be far better spent elsewhere and playing in Canterbury won’t hurt their players’ chances of representing Central.”
King said the Otago situation was not helping cricket, either, with just three sides playing each other twice.
“There will now be a meaningful competition with five sides including us and Mid-Canterbury so the result is the best of everything.”
Some of the rules are also being rejigged with recommendations to have fewer overs bowled on day two so that players can finish earlier for long trips home.
Last year South Canterbury were still playing at 8pm on he West Coast.