Celtic will look to continue their dominance when South Canterbury senior cricket gets under way today.
The Craig Davies-led team again looks the strongest on paper out of the six provisional squads, but just who will challenge their dominance is unclear.
There is no Matt Mealings and no wicketkeeper Andy Scott this year, but the emergence of Willie Wright should counteract the missing Mealings, while last year’s Roncalli College captain Jacob Naylor and team-mate Andrew Brooks transfer to the one-day champions, with Davies suggesting Naylor is likely to take on the wicketkeeping duties.
Celtic have nine possible bowling options, but questions still remain over the fitness of South Canterbury’s premier fast bowler, Glenn Matthews, and whether he can keep the injuries away for the season.
Waimate, last year’s Tweedy Cup co-winners and one-day finalists, appear to have lost the services of the three Devlin brothers, which will add more pressure on their three key players of Jason Sew Hoy, Alan Reid and Glen Drake. Despite being short on players, Sew Hoy was confident of fielding a strong side.
Star have looked to promote players from within the ranks.
Captain Phil McGregor returns with an experienced side that also features South Canterbury quick bowler Craig Hinton and former representative captain Todd Elliotte, who returns for another season and will no doubt be a factor with both bat and ball.
“I think we’ll be strong again in the two-day competition, but we want to try to improve our limited overs play at the same time.”
Alex McKenzie will be one to watch after a dismal campaign last year.
Timaru captain Hayden Butler said his team could be the dark horses of the competition after having a disastrous 2010/2011 season where they were rooted to the bottom of every competition table except the Twenty20 competition.
Indian imports Dan Murari and Srinivas KS will return, while Matt Dorgan comes across from Roncalli, and Jordan Morrow returns from a stint playing in Ireland in the off-season.
The hard-hitting Kris Howes is also expected back after his cameo appearance in the T20 competition last year.
“We were always struggling to put out a consistent XI last [season], and with the competitions being the way they are, it only takes a couple of bad results for you to fall behind.”
Roncalli College coach Gavin Hamel said his team would look to build on last year, where they were more than competitive.
Grant Watt has returned to Celtic, while Bruce Carlaw has opted out.
Barry Ward will take the wicketkeeping gloves, while Roncalli will also have the services of 23-year-old English import Ed Kilbee, a top-order batsman who is likely to open the batting against Temuka today.
Promising batsman Tom Pavletich will captain the side and the new ball attack is likely to be Daniel Dorgan and Ben Watson, while Liam Beck will be the youngest player in senior cricket in just his second year of secondary school.
Temuka are largely the same lineup as last year. The hard-hitting Rory Lorimer returns, but there is no Richie Preston, which will make them rely even more on the experience of Kevin Teahen, Adrian Cunningham and Les Humphris.