Canterbury were crowned Plunket Shield champions on Tuesday, with the club amassing its fourth trophy of the 2020-21 domestic season in New Zealand. The women had already won the one-day Hallyburton Johnstone Shield and the Super Smash titles and now the men have joined them by adding the first-class title to their Ford Trophy triumph from earlier this month.
Canterbury's quadruple became official following a draw with Central Districts in Napier, though they had already been confirmed winners with two rounds remaining. This was their first Plunket Shield win since the 2016-17 season, with their coach Peter Fulton describing it as "most special".
"It probably makes for a strange season when you know you've won the competition but you've still got two games to go," Fulton said. "[It's] a little bit different to the other times when we've won in the last round of the season, but… to do it with two rounds to go in an eight-round competition just shows how well the guys have played."
Canterbury pacer Will Williams was the season's highest wicket-taker with 31 strikes in eight games at an average of 17.03 and an economy rate of less than two runs an over. His team-mate, the experienced Matt Henry, reserved special praise for Williams' efforts and described him as an "asset" to the side.
"The way he's bowled all season in all forms [of cricket] has shown what an asset he is in this team and what he can do," Henry said. "He's bowled some incredible spells over a long period of time. He's always hungry to get better and learn, and it's just great to see him do well this year."
But Canterbury were given a jolt before the season began when their left-arm pacer Andrew Hazeldine was diagnosed with cancer. As a result, he missed the domestic season for the eventual winners of two men's trophies, but he was never too far off the team's thoughts.
"He's [Hazeldine] been a part of our thoughts the entire way through," Williams said. "Before our T20 semi-final, he actually Zoomed in the group and told us that he's cancer free. He's been around the group when he can."
Williams also hailed the pack of pace bowlers he is part of, with Fraser Sheat third on the wicket-takers' list with 27 strikes at 20.92 and Sean Davey further down with 15 in just four games while averaging 18.60, including a seven-wicket haul.
"Fraser Sheat and Sean Davey… complement already established guys like Matt Henry and Ed Nuttall," Williams said. "They are all bowling well at the moment, so it's a really good group of seamers we have got here."
Senior batsman Henry Nicholls, meanwhile, praised his batting colleagues for their contributions and said the talent available boded really well for the group. "Guys like Ken McClure and Leo Carter stepping up this year and contributing… to winning games and putting us into a position where we can challenge for the title," Nicholls said. "You see a guy like Harry Chamberlain - [in] his second game here against a good Central Districts attack scores a tough hundred. It is pretty cool as a group to have those guys come in full of confidence."
Central D vs Canterbury