Photo Credit: New Zealand Cricket
Time for players to polish those white bowling boots — the first ball in New Zealand Cricket’s Domestic summer gets bowled in just over a week’s time!
Keeping with tradition, men’s first-class cricket — the history-laden Plunket Shield championship — opens the New Zealand summer calendar.
The Plunket Shield began in 1906/07 and is still as cherished today as it was then, with eight rounds of fierce, red-ball battles deciding the season’s winner.
Defending champion is the Auckland Aces and they are straight into action on opening day, Tuesday, 18 October, hosting the Otago Volts in the first four-day match at Kennards Hire Community Oval on Sandringham Road.
At the same time further south, the Wellington Firebirds open their season at home at the Cello Basin Reserve against Northern Districts, and the Central Stags are at home at their South Island ground, Nelson’s Saxton Oval, against Canterbury.
The Aces pulled off a remarkable championship win last summer — adding it to the one-day Ford Trophy win, despite a congested late summer programme brought about by a lockdown-delayed start to the scheduled 2020/21 season.
Aces captain Robbie O’Donnell believes that busy programme ultimately helped his side gather valuable momentum, the Aces finishing on 104 points — 12 points ahead of their nearest rival, Canterbury.
With the curve ball of COVID interruptions (which included one match, between ND and the Stags, having to be called off, with the points discarded), rankings were officially made using a formula of average points per round last summer, but the final rankings were the same and, even under that arrangement, the Aces finished well ahead: 1.5 points (by average) ahead of Canterbury.
Teams can bag 20 points per round, and even the losing side can pocket up to eight points per match if they meet first-innings batting and bowling targets before the end of 110 overs. That keeps the race exciting – and rewards fast-paced, positive cricket.
Squads of 12 or 13 players are announced by noon on the day before a match gets underway, and reduced to the playing XI at the toss. Players can be substituted during the match if a concussion or COVID-19 comes into play.
The Plunket Shield is the training ground for future Test BLACKCAPS, and considered by most cricketers to be the hardest competition to win.
It requires teams to play positive, aggressive cricket to accrue points; sustain a consistent campaign across the front and back half of summer; and have plenty of depth in their squad to cover inevitable injuries, and selection comings and goings, in key positions.
This season, the six teams will play four rounds before Christmas, and four rounds at the back end of summer with the championship resuming on Saturday, 25 February 2023 after the mid-season break.
In between, the focus for players is on winning their white-ball Ford Trophy and Dream11 Super Smash campaigns.
Plunket Shield cricket is traditionally free admission right around New Zealand (sometimes with a gold coin donation for a charity) — we are one of the few countries in the world where you can enjoy watching these absorbing battles, played by the best cricketers in the country, at no cost. Take a picnic and thermos, pop in for a session anytime.
Besides Nelson, Wellington and Auckland, matches will be played this summer in Mount Maunganui, Christchurch, Dunedin, Napier, Palmerston North, Hamilton, Alexandra and Rangiora.
There’s also a free livestream of every match on our NZC YouTube channel or just visit our app or website and head to the livescoring of the match you want to follow. Matches begin at 10.30am with plenty of interest in the toss on the first day at 10am.
Tuesday 18 to Friday 21 October 2022
Central Stags v Canterbury • Saxton Oval, Stoke, Nelson
Auckland Aces v Otago Volts • Kennards Hire Community Oval, Eden Park, Auckland
Wellington Firebirds v Northern Districts • the Celllo Basin Reserve, Wellington