A first-class season like no other resumes (again) tomorrow, following the conclusion of the men's white-ball summer on Saturday.
If you need a recap, lockdowns in the northern half of the North Island saw the Auckland Aces and Northern Districts make delayed starts to the season, with missed rounds rescheduled and other teams' matches rejigged to plug the gaps.
A decision was taken that this season's Domestic competitions would be decided on average points per game, given the possibility that some teams would not be able to play as many rounds as others.
And, in a furiously busy season, the Auckland Aces and Northern Districts have been busy lads ever since, with a Plunket Shield bout squeezed in amongst recent Ford Trophy battles.
So where are we now?
With the season resuming at 10.30am this Thursday (with four of the six teams in action), this is how many rounds each team has completed so far... of the maximum eight rounds that comprises New Zealand's uneven draw in a typical season (i.e. not every team gets to play each other home and away, even in a normal season).
And, in helpful brackets, is the number of scheduled rounds remaining.
- Auckland Aces: 2 (6)
- Northern Districts: 3 (5)
- Canterbury, Central Stags and Wellington Firebirds: 4 (4)
- Otago Volts: 5 (3)
Now, bearing in mind that the order on the points table is determined by average points, and that there are 20 points available per team per match, let's study that table.
The Stags - who came close to beating Canterbury in the opening round, before weather packed in - and then Canterbury were the summer's early leaders on points.
But once the Auckland Aces got going, they made it count.
Now, under new interim coach Luke Ronchi (Heinrich Malan having departed to take a new job as Ireland's head coach), the Aces look like they are holding all the cards.
It's a busy programme for the Aucklanders that runs deep into April - the final match starting between the Aces and Canterbury on Tuesday 12 April, assuming no Omicron interruptions or other curve balls. But with business comes momentum, as they showed in The Ford Trophy - now fresh off lifting the trophy on Saturday.
Four-day cricket is more arduous on the limbs, to be sure, but the intrigue as to how that pans out across the forthcoming weeks is palpable. The Stags meanwhile have a weekend of club cricket after The Ford Trophy Final before resuming first-class cricket in Napier next Friday v ND, along with the Otago Volts in Alexandra v the Aces.
From 10.30am • Thursday 3rd to Sunday 6th March 2022
* Matches are played behind closed gates under Red in the Protection Framework, but you can follow every ball for free with our free NZC livestreams on NZC YouTube or just click on the livescoring on game day.
Auckland Aces v Canterbury
Kennard Hire Community Oval
Robbie O’Donnell - captain
Ben Horne - wicketkeeper
Cole McConchie - captain
Cam Fletcher - wicketkeeper
Zak Foulkes - potential first-class debut
Mitch Hay - potential first-class debut
Theo van Woerkom
Notes: Andrew Hazeldine (above) is poised to make his first appearance for Canterbury since recovering from cancer, having been diagnosed in September 2020.
Left-arm unorthodox spinner Blake Coburn is in line to make his first appearance in the Plunket Shield since March 2018 after an impressive few months plying his trade for Canterbury Country
Will O'Donnell was a late replacement in the named Aces squad for Will Somerville (illness).
Northern Districts v Wellington Firebirds
Cobham Oval, Whangarei
Joe Carter - captain
Kristian Clarke - potential first-class debut
Tim Seifert - wicketkeeper
Michael Bracewell - captain
Callum McLachlan - wicketkeeper
Logan van Beek
Matches are livestreamed and live-scored by NZC at www.nzc.nz and on the NZC app