White-line fever returns for red-ball cricket today. All images: PHOTOSPORT

Back to work for Plunket Shield

It’s back to work today for New Zealand’s first-class cricketers in Round Three of the historic Plunket Shield.

After a six-week recess for The Ford Trophy, newly crowned one-day champions the Wellington Firebirds will be hoping to take their winning white-ball form straight into the demanding four-day format.

The Firebirds resume the Plunket Shield in second spot in the first-class championship, just 10 points behind unbeaten early leaders and defending champions the Central Stags in the eight-round competition.

Twenty-year-old Hawke’s Bay batsman Dean Foxcroft, who made a maiden List A (one-day domestic) century in just his second Ford Trophy appearance for the Central side, meanwhile makes his first-class debut at Alexandra’s Molyneux Park, against Ford Trophy runners-up, the Otago Volts. Top order batsman Cam Hawkins and left-arm spinner Ben Lockrose make their first-class debuts for the Volts in the same match.

Coming off their best Ford Trophy season in years, the Volts will be hoping to bring that winning touch to the first-class format with the southerners winless at the bottom of the Plunket Shield table after the two early rounds in October.

On recent weeks’ form, however, the Volts should prove a good test for the Stags who have not beaten in a Plunket Shield match since October 2016.

The Stags are without form allrounder Ben Wheeler, sitting out the round as part of his managed return from spinal fusion surgery, but have regained emerging strike bowler Blair Tickner after impressive performances for New Zealand A against India A in the recently concluded red-ball series.

Volts captain and opening bowler Jacob Duffy will be eager to continue his own sharp form with ball after having been asked to bowl first by Stags captain Greg Hay. Duffy broke Neil Wagner’s Volts’ record for most wickets in a Ford Trophy season in Saturday’s Grand Final, in his first summer captaining the side, while Hay was the Stags’ leading run-scorer in his first List A season in five years.

The Firebirds have been busy racking up the statchat as well, with opening batsman Andrew Fletcher (above; most runs and most centuries), wicketkeeper Lauchie Johns (most catches and dismissals) and Ford Trophy captain Hamish Bennett (most wickets) all setting new List A Firebirds records for a single Ford Trophy season.

Michael Bracewell resumes the Firebirds captaincy duties for the first-class campaign with the capital cricketers away to Northern Districts at Seddon Park. ND enters Round Three just two points adrift of the Firebirds in third spot, with wet weather delaying the start of play in Hamilton.

At Eden Park Outer Oval, hosts the Auckland Aces and Canterbury are underway after a half-hour delay for wet weather, new Aces captain Robbie O’Donnell winning his first coin toss and electing to bowl first. NZ A centurion Cam Fletcher and spin bowler Theo van Woerkom rejoin the Canterbury XI after strong performances against India A last week while BLACKCAPS Mark Chapman and Glenn Phillips return to the Plunket Shield for the Auckland Aces.

Points situation heading into Round 3

Central Stags — 36
Wellington Firebirds — 26
Northern Districts — 24
Auckland Aces —11
Canterbury — 7
Otago — 5

With Thanks To

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