Marlborough want prized shield back
Nelson's senior cricket side may justifiably be healthy favourites for Sunday's Newman Shield Challenge at Saxton Oval in Stoke, but Marlborough have not discounted their chances of bringing the prized trophy back to Blenheim.
As well as having home advantage, holders Nelson take a sizeable mental edge into the match after a commanding eight-wicket Cave Cup win over Marlborough in Napier nearly two weeks ago.
On top of that, Marlborough will head over the Whangamoas without Central Districts left-arm quick Ben Wheeler, aggressive all-rounder Greg Knowles and top-order batsman Sean Neal.
Despite all that, Marlborough player/coach Greg Stretch remained upbeat about his side's prospects.
Wairau left-arm swing bowler Ben Stark, Wairau Valley all-rounder Matt McCormick and young Wairau fast-bowler Chris Pope come back into the side and Stretch said all three brought something positive to the table.
"Chris brings that extra bit of pace and Starky, while he is not at the same level, is similar to Ben [Wheeler] and gives us that left-arm variation.
"Matt gets a big opportunity opening the batting and also forms a left/right-handed combination with Tim Abrahams. [McCormick] likes to play positively and we are hoping he might surprise a few people."
Stretch acknowledged Nelson were "definitely favourites" and said Marlborough's long-time arch-rivals were a very solid all-round unit. However, he remained confident his side could wrestle the shield from Nelson's grasp and pointed out the fixture was a one-off match, where anything could happen.
"We are playing for a shield that means a lot to Marlborough cricket. For us it's about doing the basics well and controlling what we can control. "
After a impressive performance for Wairau last week, Pope will take the new ball with vice-captain Ben McLennan, with Stark, McCormick and teenagers Josh Clarkson and Sam Boyce providing the seam back-up. Assisted by Josh Poole, skipper Nick d'Auvergne heads the spin attack.
Marlborough's biggest downfall in Napier was the inability of their top-order batsmen to put runs on the board and to that end there is plenty of onus on the likes of Abrahams, Chris Gibb and Poole to contribute.
Father-son duo Greg and Matt Stretch will likely be at five and six respectively, with Stark, McLennan and Clarkson at the top of a more-than-capable tail. As is the case for Newman Shield matches, both teams will have 12 players. Greg Stretch will be Marlborough's non fielder, with Boyce the non-batsman.
Marlborough: Nick d'Auvergne (c), Tim Abrahams, Matt McCormick, Chris Gibb, Josh Poole, Greg Stretch, Matthew Stretch, Ben McLennan, Josh Clarkson, Ben Stark, Chris Pope, Sam Boyce.
Nelson: BJ Barnett (c), Dan Cooper, Marty Kain, Greg Hay, Ryan Edwards, Connor Neynens, Ricky Edwards, Matt Macquet, Luke Toynbee, Joe O'Connor, Darius Skeaping, Dylan Eginton.
- The Marlborough Express