[singlepic id=60 w=320 h=240 float=left]Today shapes up to be the biggest day in South Canterbury cricket for five years.
The Canterbury Wizards and Otago Volts will look to rekindle their one-day domestic semifinal aspirations at Aorangi Oval.
The final touches were being applied to the ground and its facilities yesterday, which included a new scoreboard to go with the upgrade of the changing rooms, all of which was required to bring domestic cricket back to South Canterbury.
Canterbury will have to play the game without former Black Cap, Craig McMillan, who has a calf strain and is being rested. He has been replaced by Andy Ellis. Fast bowler Hamish Bennett is also out and has been replaced by Brandon Hiini. Big-hitting Corey Anderson was not considered because of his shoulder injury.
Otago have made two changes to their squad, with Leighton Morgan brought in to the top-order at the expense of Hamish Rutherford and left-arm off spinner Nick Beard also comes in, replacing Anthony Bullick and Matthew Harvie, which cuts the squad to 12 players.
Canterbury are in fourth after two wins and two losses, and come into today’s game after a loss to Auckland, where they were unable to defend 282, thanks mostly to the heroics of Auckland batsman Martin Guptill, who blazed 156.
Otago are in fifth, with only one win against bottom-of-the-table Wellington. Otago could not chase down 297 against Central Districts on Monday, falling 59 runs short. A win for Canterbury would see them open up a big gap on the points table over Otago in the race for a top four spot.
The Aorangi Oval pitch has seen excellent scoring so far this season, as long as batsman are willing to apply themselves and get used to the conditions.
Groundsman Greg Hull was hopeful of preparing a pitch that would produce plenty of runs. He will certainly be looking to avoid a similar result to the last one-day domestic match played at the ground five years ago.
A star-studded Canterbury lineup was unable to chase down 148, losing by six runs to Northern Districts. Some of the players who were involved in that game will return today. They include Michael Papps, Chris Martin and the ageless Chris Harris.
Otago will pose a challenge for the more-fancied Canterbury, especially if their top order, led by Timaru’s own Craig Cumming, and former Black Cap Neil Broom, can find form.
Broom had been in great touch in the four-day competition, but with an Otago batsman’s top score in the one-day competition being 81, a century from the top-order is overdue.
Canterbury have a strong batting lineup full of past Black Caps, but their South African-born players, Johann Myburgh and captain Kruger van Wyk, are their most underrated quantity. In great form this season, Myburgh scored 112 against Auckland on Monday, while captain van Wyk is tidy behind the stumps, and handy with the bat lower down the order.
Otago has brought in former Pakistan international Yasir Arafat, whose medium-pace bowling will be respected.
Former Black Cap Ian Butler is another bowler to watch out for, the Otago paceman is coming off a four-wicket haul against Central Districts.
The game gets under way at 11am.