The search is on for New Zealand's top cricket club and all six contenders will need to be top of their game as clubbies from throughout the country watch their every move.
The field for the 2021 National Club Cricket Championship — traditionally the final act of the New Zealand cricket season, hosted by Auckland's Cornwall Park Cricket Club — is shaping as the strongest in 27 years and for the first time all matches on the Number One ground will be livestreamed.
The round robin tournament features the top senior club side from each of New Zealand's six Major Associations and will conclude with a livestreamed 1v2 Final at 11am on Sunday, with 3v4 and 5v6 playoffs cheek by jowl on the adjacent grounds at the scenic club - set in the lee of One Tree Hill in Auckland's Cornwall Park.
Central Districts' Napier Technical Old Boys is chasing a three-peat of titles, albeit 12 months later than planned after last year's tournament was cancelled due to New Zealand's COVID-19 lockdown.
In normal years, a club earns the trip to the Nationals by winning the inter-regional playoffs or the senior club competition in their region, but for this season tournament organisers have instead invited back the six teams that missed out on playing for last year's championship title, to allow more time for finalists to fundraise for the rescheduled trip.
It will be the first time that the long awaited and long-running tournament is contested in the T20 format, having previously been a week-long one-day cricket tournament. In the new, shortened version, the first round begins at 2.15PM this afternoon with defending champion Napier Tech on the Number One ground against Northern Districts representative Karaka, live-streamed.
Napier Tech has brought a mix of established and fresh faces to Auckland, including tournament veterans and Central Stags players Christian Leopard and Jayden Lennox.
Wellington's Karori shapes as a strong unit with BLACKCAP Tom Blundell and fellow Wellington Firebirds Peter Younghusband, James Hartshorn, Andrew Fletcher, Michael Snedden, Jakob Bhula and former Firebird & Canterbury representative Michael Pollard in the mixer.
Meanwhile the Auckland Aces' prolific batting brothers Will and Robbie O'Donnell will be looking to back up their head-turning centuries in the last Plunket Shield match of the summer earlier this week with some T20 fireworks for their Auckland club side Takapuna - which also features Aces teammates Ross ter Braak and Danru Ferns, as well as New Zealand Under 19 representative and wicketkeeper/batsman Quinn Sunde.
A dynastic force on the Hawke's Bay club cricket scene in recent years, NTOB (nicknamed the "Texans") is the only club to have returned from the previous championship in 2019, marking their ninth appearance at nationals since 1995 as they approach their club's centenary celebrations.
Otago will be represented by Taieri, a side that includes promising youngster and New Zealand U19 rep Beckham Wheeler-Greenall, while Canterbury's Lancaster Park will be making their first appearance in more than a decade.
National Club Cricket Championship
Cornwall Cricket Club, Auckland
8-11 April 2021
ROUND ONE • 2.15 PM Thursday 8 April
Cornwall Park No.1 : Napier Technical Old Boys v Karaka - livestreamed
Cornwall Park No.2 : Karori v Taieri
Cornwall Park No.3 : Takapuna v Lancaster Park
ROUND TWO • 10.15 AM Friday 9 April
Cornwall Park No.1 : Lancaster Park v Karori - livestreamed
Cornwall Park No.2 : Napier Technical Old Boys v Takapuna
Cornwall Park No.3 : Taieri v Karaka
ROUND THREE • 2.15 PM Friday 9 April
Cornwall Park No.1 : Takapuna v Taieri - livestreamed
Cornwall Park No.2 : Karori v Karaka
Cornwall Park No.3 : Napier Technical Old Boys v Lancaster Park
ROUND FOUR • 10.15 AM Saturday 10 April
Cornwall Park No.1 : Lancaster Park v Karaka - livestreamed
Cornwall Park No.2 : Napier Technical Old Boys v Taieri
Cornwall Park No.3 : Takapuna v Karori
ROUND FIVE • 2.15 PM Saturday 10 April
Cornwall Park No.1 : Napier Technical Old Boys v Karori - livestreamed
Cornwall Park No.2 : Lancaster Park v Taieri
Cornwall Park No.3 : Karaka v Takapuna
FINAL | PLAYOFFS
11 AM, Sunday 11 April
Cornwall Park No.1 : 1v2 - livestreamed
Cornwall Park No.2 : 3v4
Cornwall Park No.1 : 5v6
All matches will be livescored here: http://live.nvplay.com/play/