Crunch time for Papatoetoe
It's all or nothing for relegation-threatened Papatoetoe when they face Parnell in the final round match of Auckland club cricket's two-day championship at the Papatoetoe Recreation Centre in Hunters Corner tomorrow.
They need an outright win to secure their place in the Hedley Howarth Trophy, the prize for which the top eight premier teams compete.
Anything less will throw Cornwall, who host sixth-placed Grafton at Cornwall Park in a corresponding fixture, a lifeline.
Last-placed Papatoetoe gave themselves a last shot at avoiding the drop to the six-team minor championship when they edged Cornwall by first innings points at Cornwall Park on Wednesday, sending them into last place.
It was a match Papatoetoe needed to win. Failure would have almost certainly seen last year's runners-up demoted.
The win was a relief but the points now separating the two teams are so negligible that first innings points tomorrow won't be enough to guarantee they stay ahead.
"At least destiny is in their own hands," Papatoetoe manager John Lee says.
"If we do what we did against Cornwall we've a chance. We've got the players and the ability. We just haven't fired yet.
"It hasn't helped that we've been without our two most experienced bowlers, Gareth Shaw and Bhupinder Singh, since November."
Shaw, a former captain, fast bowler and more than capable bat was good enough to play for the Aces a couple of seasons ago. He has been out with an injured quadriceps since November.
He made a welcome return on the second day of the game against Cornwall.
"He didn't get to bat but he did bowl with good pace," Lee says.
"He'll be a valuable addition against Parnell who will likely have Aces opener Tim McIntosh available."
The other piece of good news is that Singh will play. The off-spinner was not wanted by the Aces and proved what an asset he is to his club side by almost single-handedly destroying Cornwall's first innings.
His 5-24 off nine overs, which included three maidens, saw the home side fall for 146 in their first innings.
Having Shaw and Singh in the team will add an edge to Papatoetoe's bowling.
Lee says the pair will also lift their young team-mates who've struggled without their leaders.
Unfortunately the pair were unable to affect an outright against Cornwall.
Resuming at 153-3 Papatoetoe made 249-6 declared in their first innings.
Opener Laxman Popli was the backbone. He added 30 to his overnight score to finish with an unbeaten 100.
Papatoetoe got off to a flying start, reducing Cornwall to 95-5 late on day two.
Shaw, Singh, Dave Pimm, and Kurt McDonald shared the spoils. But they couldn't finish off their good work as the wicket flattened out, allowing the Cornwall middle order to put up the shutters and see out time. They finished on 262 for 7.
Tomorrow's match against Parnell starts at 11am.
SCOREBOARD Cornwall 146 (S Anderson 45, T Nidamanuru 41, B Singh 5/24) and 262/7 (R Newton 93, S Marra 66no) lost to Papatoetoe 249/6 dec (L Popli 100no) on first innings.