SOUTHLAND cricket coach Steve Jackson wants to see his top-order batsmen deliver big totals as the build-up towards its 2019 Hawke Cup defences officially begins on Saturday.
Southland ended a 26-year drought in March when it beat Counties Manukau by 10 wickets to get its hands on the Hawke Cup for the first time since 1992.
Southland’s 2018-19 campaign will start this weekend when it takes on Otago Country in Alexandra, although it will not be until February when Southland actually goes about trying to defend the Hawke Cup.
As in normal seasons, Southland will take part in the Southern Zone series which included Otago Country, North Otago, Mid Canterbury and South Canterbury.
At the completion of the series, the Southern Zone winner will get first crack at a Hawke Cup challenge in Invercargill. If Southland was to win the series again, the first challenge would go to the second-placed team.
Effectively it means Southland has four Southern Zone fixtures as preparation before the prized trophy goes on the line in Invercargill.
Southern Zone fixtures are two-day games, but Hawke Cup defences are held over three days.
A drawn game is enough for the holder to keep the cup, which means it is about batting for as a long as possible.
Jackson wants to see that sort of stickability when Southland starts its dress rehearsal in Alexandra this weekend.
“In the past, a first innings total of 200 might be enough in the zone games, but we are going to need to be better than that when we are defending it.
“Our guys in the top-order need to be scoring hundreds and getting big totals,” he said.
Jackson has named a team to play Otago Country which is stacked with batsmen but limited on fast bowling resources. That is partly down to the way Southland wants to play the game, but it also highlights a lack of depth in the province’s pace bowling ranks.
Southland’s bowling strength is in the spin department, led by fringe Otago Volts player Ben Lockrose.
Others spin options in the playing group include Otago A player Harsh Visvavidiya, Otago under-19 leg-spinner Jack Mockford and Appleby’s Venkat Kotte.
Jackson said there were also other spinners in club cricket – including Jeremy Boyle and Mitch Harvey – who at another time would probably have forced their way into the line-up.
Former Otago under-19 player Daynan Stewart, who recently moved south, is the only player in line to make his Hawke Cup debut this weekend.
Southland was still working through a potential overseas import for this season and Jackson said the key was to have that player in the province and ready for the first Hawke Cup defence in February.
Southland has a big workload ahead of it with back-to-back Hawke Cup games over the next three weeks.
Southland’s last game the Southern Zone series will be in early January followed by games against Country Country and Otago A before the first Hawke Cup defence.
Jackson said the group was excited.
“They’ve always been focused, but there is a real excitement – to a level which I haven’t seem from them before,” he said.
Jason Domigan, Sam Downing, Shaun Fitzgibbon (c), Venkat Kotte, Ben Lockrose, Jarred Mckenzie, Jack Mockford, James Ng, Jason Osborne, Amar Singh, Hamish Skelt, Daynan Stewart, Harsh Visvavidiya.
Taylor Cumberland, Joel Meade, Cam Jackson, Reuben Pyle, Tim McCormick, Bailey Andrews-Kennedy, James Pyle (c), Caleb Carson, Barry White, Kevin Loggenberg, Sam Blakely, Tom Myles.