Only four players remain in the current North Otago squad from the side that lifted the Hawke Cup following a comprehensive 159-run win over Manawatu at Palmerston North five years ago.
Ben Cant, Glynn Cameron, Jordan Horrell and Duncan Drew were there to celebrate the greatest moment in the association’s history in 2010, and Cant believes North Otago has the personnel to cause an upset again against Canterbury Country in Rangiora.
“I think in the last challenge we had less guys that could put in a match-winning performance,” he said.
“This summer it feels like there’s more guys throughout the team that can either score 100 or take a five-for, where as last time we relied on only a couple of individuals.”
North Otago secured the challenge with a first-innings victory over Mid Canterbury in January, while South Canterbury, the only team which could realistically pass North Otago, was unable to gain an outright win over Otago Country.
Cant reflected positively on a campaign that has been fuelled by a depth of talent throughout the squad and a collective effort off the pitch.
“I think the last few games in the zone series in particular, we’ve had a lot of different guys contribute and I think that helps leading into it, as opposed to in 2010 we had a lot less people contributing.”
“I think it is [good] that guys can contribute right across the board. I think we’ve had some really good structures in place from the manager, Hamish McMurdo, and North Otago Cricket that provides you with the frame to do well. Without that sort of stuff, we can’t really play how we want to, so it helps having that stuff in place.”
The current squad of North Otago hopefuls has the level-headedness of experience, provided by stalwarts Drew, Cameron and Horrell, and the tenacity of youth in the Smith brothers, Jeremy and Nathan, while 20-somethings Cant, Shields and exceptional South African Francois Mostert consistently perform well.
“I think the older guys definitely help. They’ve been in a lot of different situations, particularly in longer form cricket, because we only get to play four two-day games a summer. It helps to have those guys that have done it so many times before,” said Cant.
“To help the younger guys like Nathan [Smith] when he’s bowling or Jeremy [Smith] as well and to offer those little bits of advice in scenarios they might not have come across.
“I think the young guys bring a new intensity, to really push everyone a lot harder, which is great.”
As in the 2010 challenge, North Otago will be the underdog at MainPower Oval, but Cant believes that label will be an advantage.
“We’re definitely underdogs but anything can happen in cricket. I think we’re underdogs but that’s a good tag for us and what works well for us.”
The Hawke Cup challenge will begin tomorrow at MainPower Oval in Rangiora.
By James Ford