It’s been a long wait to get back on a cricket field for Joe Carter, but today the Northern Districts captain and his players — those outside Alert Level restricted areas — are finally getting to play some rep cricket.
Ahead of ND’s lockdown-delayed entry into the 2021/22 Plunket Shield first-class championship next week, Carter and a slightly makeshift NDXI squad is playing a CDXI in a warm-up three-day match in Hastings.
With Hamilton-based players still stuck behind Alert Level boundaries, ND has sat out the first month of the Plunket Shield whilst Canterbury, the Otago Volts, Central Stags and Wellington Firebirds have all tucked three matches under their championship belt.
COVID-19 has thrown plenty of curveballs at the NZC season already and Carter — who is based in the Bay of Plenty where Level 2 freedoms have allowed him to at least train almost as normal — is grateful to be in a position to host the upcoming Shield clash at his home ground, Mount Maunganui’s Bay Oval starting on Monday 15 November.
It will be a tough first-up clash with the defending champions and early leaders Canterbury — and ND is likely to be without valuable players as lockdowns continue in Auckland and central Waikato.
“We’ve had a total of eight players under Level 3 or 4 at various stages”, explains Carter who was New Zealand’s top Plunket Shield batsman last summer with 590 runs at a 53.63 average, including two centuries.
“Henry Cooper, for instance, he was stuck in Auckland for some time. He had a rental agreement to move down to Hamilton, then Hamilton went into lockdown as well, so he had to wait to sort out a move and was doing it pretty tough on his own for a while, away from the squad.
“Bharat Popli had fortunately already moved down from Auckland, and us Tauranga boys have had a really good preseason, starting early on the covered grass marquee at Bay Oval and then outside on grass.
“We’ve had our BLACKCAPS Neil Wagner and Colin de Grandhomme at home at the Mount as well, so training with the group. We’ve had guys like BJ Watling coming in helping us as well. Our prep has been really awesome — which is why I feel so bad for the guys doing it tough on their own."
The entire far-flung squad meets over Zoom regularly to keep spirits up and plans aligned, "but it’s been a frustrating wait to be able to just get going like we normally would be,” adds Carter.
“The struggle is there are so many different scenarios. All we have been able to do is just train and be ready.
"Even for our Hamilton boys, they are ready to go, and are just craving that game-time after training by themselves for so long.”
ND A was originally scheduled to host CD A in Hamilton today, but the three-day match was necessarily transferred to Lindisfarne College, Hastings — one of the few grounds available in Hawke’s Bay after a deluge of wet weather in Central Districts this week.
An ND XI is batting first with a cobbled-together but useful side of Jeet Raval, Cooper, Popli, Carter, de Grandhomme, Brett Hampton, Ben Pomare, Peter Drysdale, Tim Pringle, Matt Fisher and Brett Randell.
ND's emerging player Fergus Lellman will bat for the CDXI which notably features the return of Central Stags swing bowler Seth Rance from a preseason ankle injury. CDXI captain Bevan Small won the toss this morning and sent the visitors in.
Carter’s looking on the bright side as he looks ahead to a season that will hopefully see his team play rescheduled matches at the back end of the championship to catch up with other teams.
“There are good opportunities at present for some younger guys to be involved. It's a great chance for them to learn and show what they can do.
"But I feel bad for the other guys who still can’t join us while we’re operating pretty much as normal. We will just have to make the most of it, for them.”
• There is no live-scoring for the CD XI v ND XI three-day fixture in Hastings, however CDCA will endeavour to share end of day match updates and scorecards
Matches are livestreamed and livescored at www.nzc.nz and on the NZC app
Today's photography available from www.Photosport.nz
* Level 2 Event attendance protocols apply:
- Maintain at least 1m distancing from other people outside your personal/family/whanau bubble https://covid19.govt.nz/health-and-wellbeing/protect-yourself-and-others-from-covid-19/maintain-physical-distancing/#physical-distancing-at-alert-level-2
- Wear a face covering https://covid19.govt.nz/health-and-wellbeing/protect-yourself-and-others-from-covid-19/wear-a-face-covering/
- Keep track of where you have been https://covid19.govt.nz/health-and-wellbeing/protect-yourself-and-others-from-covid-19/keep-track-of-where-youve-been/
- Get a test if you are unwell https://covid19.govt.nz/health-and-wellbeing/covid-19-testing/get-tested-for-covid-19/
- Maintain good hygiene https://covid19.govt.nz/health-and-wellbeing/protect-yourself-and-others-from-covid-19/maintain-good-hygiene/
- Book your free vaccination https://covid19.govt.nz/covid-19-vaccines/how-to-get-a-covid-19-vaccination/book-your-covid-19-vaccination/