There are days when cricket just has it in for you and, for the Devon Hotel Central Stags, this was one of those days.
On paper, Canterbury had more experience, fewer injuries in the mix, and the kind of depth that didn’t dent them despite lending the likes of Tom Latham and Matt Henry to the BLACKCAPS.
The Stags, defending champions in the Ford Trophy that sat in a nearby CDCA office at McLean Park — on top of a bookshelf, meanwhile had done well to bring themselves together in time for round one, after seamer Seth Rance passed his hamstring test and Dane Cleaver’s back stopped going into spasm.
Powerhouse Jesse Ryder was finally back from his side strain, bustling bowler Bevan Small was finally back from injury to help smoothe over the gap left by Adam Milne and Doug Bracewell, both on BLACKCAPS duty; and although Ajaz Patel and Josh Clarkson were on one-day debut, they each had had a few pressure games now, in other formats, in the green cap.
But they all ran into a red and black wall called Canterbury.
About the only thing that went right for new captain Will Young was winning the toss, and history dictates that 99 times out of a hundred one bats first at McLean Park. It was fine, if a bit cool in the shade, and the pitch looked full of runs.
Ryder made a quick start with his 22-ball 28, but likable left-armer Ed Nuttall — back from injury for Canterbury and playing just his second List A match for them — was in the mood to make up for lost time with a few wickets. He took out the top three, including Ben Smith for a duck and Ryder, caught.
New Canterbury captain Andy Ellis zoomed in to take out a potential gamechanger in Tom Bruce, and that left Young and young Josh Clarkson embarking on a serious rebuild after only 10 overs.
They played with due care, but Nuttall (3-22) wasn’t done and made a definitive strike when he ended Young’s watch after an hour and a half to have the Stags 89/5 in the 22nd over.
It was round about now that the Stags were to get a few more reminders that the cricket gods weren’t on their team, today. Small almost immediately copped a delivery on the forearm and his stay was short, built tough but with the addition of an armguard for the second innings.
It was Cleaver’s turn to attempt a rebuild for the Stags — and he was going well, with 33 off 52 balls before he set off for calamitous a run off Andy Ellis, fell over and, realising his peril, desperately reached to try and touch his bat back inside his crease whilst prone on the ground.
It didn’t work and, as a disconsolate Cleaver got up and dusted himself off, Ellis and Cameron Fletcher were happy to be celebrating a stumping.
It was spinner versus spinner as Marty Kain came out and gave it a wallop against Todd Astle and Ronnie Hira, but despite his quick 30 the Canterbury tweakers wrapped up the final wickets to have the Stags back in the hut for just 167, with more than seven overs unused and Astle picking up 3-38.
Despite the considerable advantage, Canterbury gave them half a chance in reply by dropping to four down inside the first 17 overs of the reply.
Rance made a good impact with the ball, taking out opener Leo Carter for a cost of just four runs, then bagging Ellis for a duck.
Clarkson had meanwhile picked up his maiden Ford Trophy wicket thanks to Peter Fulton chipping up a catch to Small on just 10.
That left Canterbury’s debutant opener Michael Davidson to keep chipping away for a useful 30.
When Andy Mathieson had him caught, Canterbury was in a minor pickle at 59/4, with some 100 more runs required.
But with 101 List A games between them and an untroubling run rate required, Hira and Astle had the composure to walk the rest of it home for the visitors without too much trouble.
Much to the Stags’ frustration, the match changed down a gear to a nurdling affair, until Hira got in sight of the winning posts — and by then little stood in the way of a six-wicket win with eight overs to spare.
Hira finished with an unbeaten 70 off 93 balls, supported by Astle’s 41 in an unbroken 109-run stand.
On “Border Wars” Wednesday, round two sees Canterbury head to Molyneux Park to duel with the Volts, while the Stags are off to the Basin Reserve to try to score a win over the Wellington Firebirds.
All FORD TROPHY matches are livescored at www.blackcaps.co.nz and on the BLACKCAPS mobile app