First-Class cricket returns

State Canterbury Wizards and State Otago Volts open the 2006/07 first-class season at Christchurch’s QEII Park with the season’s maiden first-class match on Wednesday.

The South Island rivals meet up with the shared goal of improving their positions in the final State Championship analysis from last season.

The visiting Volts narrowly missed out on the final last season, also reaching the State Shield semi-final.

Canterbury took both limited-overs titles in 2005/06 - the State Twenty20 and Shield competitions - but could not translate that form in the four-day game.

The double winners have seen their side undergo personnel movements over the winter.

Four players will make their first-class debuts for the Wizards at QEII Park – Amandeep Singh, Leighton Burtt, Chris Small and new South African-born wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk.

BLACKCAPS ‘keeper also features as a specialist batsman, with Van Wyk makes his maiden first-class appearance in New Zealand.

Current BLACKCAPS and also feature in a side captained by , also including experienced all-rounder .

Coach Dave Nosworthy said: “The four-day game is always the premier competition and we want to perform well, but there have been massive changes to our side.

“ has retired, , and are all not here – that’s four senior players not around.

“Four guys are making debuts, but sometimes you can find that the exuberance of youth brings them through. We’re certainly looking to them to perform.”

Otago coach Mike Hesson will be without for at least six weeks after the New Zealand A bowler broke his jaw during the State Twenty20 tournament in Invercargill.

Hesson said: “We’ve had a good off season and the guys have prepared well, losing Warren's a big loss but we have to deal with that and that’s what pre-season’s about – getting good depth.

“We’re always looking to improve. Last year, we got third in both competitions, but we want to win something - although I’m sure the other five teams are sitting round thinking the same.

“But we’re pretty pleased with the balance of the side we’ve got and our challenge is to test our depth.”

  • Live scoring available for all State Champioship matches at .






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