Decisive win will clinch cup challenge
Manawatu will be looking to keep their perfect Hawke Cup season intact when they host Taranaki in the final round of the two-day competition.
After four outright wins this summer, Manawatu are sitting pretty in their quest to get a Hawke Cup challenge - and, barring a huge upset, they will clinch it at Fitzherbert Park this weekend.
Manawatu are in front on 40 points. Hawke's Bay are on 30 and Taranaki are the next best, but out of the equation, on 27.
Hawke's Bay would also need a huge boost to their net runs per wicket calculation. Manawatu are on 29.9 and Hawke's Bay 6.64.
In the same match last year, Manawatu won by an innings and 68 runs within a day as they bowled Taranaki out for 35 and 80, with Roald Badenhorst and Mike Mason taking 19 wickets between them.
"I don't think that will happen again," coach Mason said. "That's what we need to happen for us to not get a challenge."
If that happened, Hawke's Bay would need to massacre Wanganui in Hawke's Bay this weekend and still things would be tight.
"What we need to do is try and win it," Mason said. "If we can get another outright win, we can make a bit of history. I'm sure no-one's got five outrights in a year."
If the team could do that, then things would take care of themselves, he said.
Even a draw or a washout will get Manawatu points and they won't be able to be overtaken.
In team changes, fast bowler Bevan Small is playing for Central Districts in their Plunket Shield game against Northern Districts in Napier, and batsman Dave Meiring is unavailable after the birth of his second child on Wednesday.
Seamer Navin Patel and off-spinning allrounder Arana Noema-Barnett are available after playing for the CD under-19 team at the national tournament last week. It is still the majority of the team who have swept every other CD association this summer, so the changes won't disrupt them too much.
Taranaki will have a powerful batting lineup, with former CD and Black Caps batsman Peter Ingram as well as CD opener Dean Robinson.
Manawatu will also play Wellington City in the Tararua Shield one-day final, after Wellington City beat Hutt Valley by eight runs at the weekend in the final round-robin match.
The final is in Palmerston North on February 16.
Hawke Cup teams:
Manawatu: Brynn Cleaver (Old Boys), Luke Murray (Freyberg, captain), Mitch Renwick (Marist), Roald Badenhorst (Marist), Dane Cleaver (Freyberg), Cameron Rowe (United), Arana Noema-Barnett (Marist), Robbie Yule (Old Boys), Tim Richards (Old Boys), Navin Patel (Marist), Bryn Templeman (Old Boys), Phil Mecredy (United).
Taranaki: Peter Ingram (captain), Dean Robinson, Trent McGrath, Tom Bruce, James McDougall, Dion Ebrahim, Moritz Hartman, Mattie Thomas, Jamie Watkins, Hayden McIntyre, Billy Sanger, Callum Stuart.