Grove Tavern Wairau can book their spot in the final of Marlborough cricket's SBS Bank McQueen Cup two-day championship with a game to spare when they face Guthrie Bowron Renwick in a round five clash at Horton Park tomorrow.
Last year's defeated finalists, Wairau went to the top of the points standings last weekend when they scored a three-wicket win over arch-rivals Wairau Valley. A third competition victory against Renwick, who are still winless and sit at the bottom of the ladder, would seal Wairau's spot in the title decider with one round-robin match still to be played.
Both sides are likely to have just a couple of changes to their teams from round four. Wairau are strengthened by the return of young opening batsman Fraser McIntosh, while former captain and all-rounder Vaughan Harris comes in for his first game of the season. Bowler Nick Weaver, who is still injured and played as a batsman only last week, and Englishman Charlie Lewis are the two players to drop out.
Victory is a must if Renwick are to keep their very slim hopes of making the final alive. Skipper Andrew Marshall is back from overseas but is set to have elbow surgery and will not play until the new year. Opening bowler Grant Herd is expected back this week and will replace young Braden Stewart, while Leatham Landon-Lane will also return if he is available.
Meanwhile, on the No 1 ground, both teams have plenty to play for when Biddy Kates Celtic met Criterion Hotel Wairau Valley.
Valley hold the second finals spot but Celtic will leapfrog them if they can come away with a positive result. Coming off a disappointing batting effort in the loss to Wairau, Valley will be looking to sure things up in that area and the return of Blake Parata from university should help with that. Off-spinner Rohan Prasad, now back in town, is in the side. As of yesterday afternoon, captain Tim Abrahams had not decided which two players would be omitted.
Defending champs Celtic had a slow start to the season, but their confidence would have been heightened by their convincing eight-wicket triumph over Renwick last week. The other good news for tomorrow is the return of rep players Sean Neal and Ben Blackman, plus the inclusion of Andy Fitzpatrick. Michael Daines, Matt Bryce and Paddy Crannitch are the players to miss out from last week's eleven.
Both games are scheduled for an 11.30am start.
- The Marlborough Express