Just turned 20, Felix Murray (centre) is relishing his Ford Trophy opportunities. CDCA

Young guns reunite in The Ford Trophy

It’s a top stat for nuffies — and exciting for the future of New Zealand Cricket’s domestic List A game.

Today’s scheduled Central Stags versus Northern Districts Ford Trophy match in Nelson brings together no fewer than six young guns from the 2015/16 ICC Under 19 World Cup.

Two of them — Nelson’s own Willem Ludick and potential List A debutant Dean Foxcroft — represented South Africa in the Bangladesh tournament, where Foxcroft, a hard-hitting right-hand allrounder who now represents Hawke’s Bay, captained the South Africa side and led the way with a century against the New Zealanders in their playoff, 117 off 137 balls setting up the winning total.

The New Zealand Under 19 squad featured Christian Leopard, Felix Murray, Josh Clarkson and Zak Gibson, 21, and all four are at Saxton Oval today, Gibson joining Northern Districts this round.

Leopard, 21, is a teammate, these days, of 20-year-old Foxcroft at rep level for Hawke’s Bay while new Stags signing Ludick, 21, plays alongside off-spinner Murray, just turned 20, and allrounder Clarkson, 21, for Nelson.

“We didn’t really know each other until after that last World Cup game and would never have imagined this situation,” says Leopard of newbie Foxcroft, who has been called into the Central Stags after veteran Kieran Noema-Barnett pulled a hamstring during Sunday’s Round Two loss to Canterbury.

Christian Leopard is one of five players aged 21 or under in the Stags squad. MBUTCHER

“It’s pretty amazing how it’s worked out and very cool to all be playing together now, while so many of our lads are away in UAE.”

Like Ludick, Foxcroft has been based in New Zealand for the past two summers and is coming off strong form with three centuries in club and rep cricket already this season.

The distinctly youthful look about this season’s squad (average age of the squad: 24 and an average of just 14 Central Stags Ford Trophy caps per head) won’t phase the Stags who won their opening round Ford Trophy match against the Volts at the same venue last week.

ND has meanwhile made several changes to its squad with BLACKCAPS Neil Wagner and Trent Boult now departing, and opening batsman Daniel Flynn (paternity leave) swapped for 25-year-old returnee Joe Carter who, if selected in the playing XI, will be making his first appearance in the competition since February 2017.

Seamer Jimmy Baker and spinner Joe Walker likewise step into the maroon and gold squad for the first time in The Ford Trophy this season with ND eager to chalk up their first win.

SAXTON OVAL UPDATE

Moving back up the order, Daryl Mitchell is in excellent form for ND. PHOTOSPORT

In Auckland, defending champions the Aces have unsurprisingly kept an unchanged squad after becoming the only team to go two from two thanks to an ominous victory over the Wellington Firebirds — having snuffed out the Firebirds’ chase despite a solid Michael Bracewell ton.

“There were difficult periods in the last match, but guys kept running in hard and playing positively,” said Head Coach Mark O’Donnell.

“We didn’t let our heads drop and that meant when the chances were there, we were able to take them.”

Mitch McClenaghan will again spearhead the attack at Hagley Oval against Canterbury, who are also coming off a handy five-wicket win against the Stags and have been sent in by Aces captain Craig Cachopa.

Auckland Aces v Canterbury livescores

Canterbury continues to enjoy the services of Tom Latham (left, with Cam Fletcher) and Henry Nicholls. MBUTCHER

Canterbury has just the one change with Andrew Hazeldine stepping in for Matt Henry, while the Otago Volts are looking to continue their sizzling form from Sunday when they stunned ND with a nine-wicket win, set up by Hamish Rutherford surging to a century despite early season conditions providing more treats for the bowlers.

Hamish Rutherford carried his bat in Hamilton. PHOTOSPORT

The Volts, yet to play at home this season, won the toss at the Basin and put the Firebirds into bat.

Wellington Firebirds v Otago Volts livescores

All matches are free admission, with fine weather but delays at Saxton Oval due to damp ground conditions. All Ford Trophy matches are live-scored with live video highlights here at NZC.NZ

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