Marlborough need victory on coast

The Marlborough senior cricket side's hopes of a Hawke Cup challenge hang in the balance this weekend when they travel to Greymouth to face West Coast in a zone-three round-two fixture.

After a first-innings loss to Nelson in the first match of their campaign last weekend, Marlborough head west knowing a first-innings victory is a must if they are to remain in the hunt to win zone three and earn a challenge. Following their innings and 13-run outright loss to Nelson in round one, West Coast are in the same situation.

There is just one change to the Marlborough 12 from the Nelson match, young Wairau all-rounder Josh Clarkson is coming in for Sam Boyce. Wairau Valley seamer Boyce carried the drinks last week, but has work commitments this weekend.

While he would normally be expected to shoulder the 12th man duties, there is a decent chance Clarkson might make the 11. No 3 batsman Chris Gibb twisted his ankle at Celtic training on Wednesday night and is only rated a 50-50 prospect to play. Celtic's Ben Blackman (injured) and Valley's Matt McCormick (work commitments) were not considered for selection.

As is typical, Marlborough go into the match as strong favourites. When the sides last met, on the artificial surface at Greymouth's Arthur Fong Park at the start of last year, the visitors scored a commanding nine-wicket outright victory.

Despite that, Marlborough player-coach Greg Stretch reinforced his side would not be taking anything for granted and said first innings points was the initial priority.

"We want the win and to get back on a winning track. Ideally we would win the toss and field first and hopefully be able to control the game from there.

"The first focus is on the first innings and anything more is a bonus. You never know what [West Coast] will turn up with and they showed some fight in the second innings against Nelson. That was on grass as well and they are much more used to the artificial [surface] than us."

Poor batting performances have been the major reason behind Marlborough's losses this season and they were again evident in the most recent defeat to Nelson.

Stretch said improving performance in that area had been a big focus and it was simply about players that got starts kicking on to more significant scores.

"That's what's required at Hawke Cup level and if we can play good solid cricket over two days then we'll get the result we are looking for."

The forecast for Greymouth is fine for tomorrow with a chance of some late drizzle, on Sunday.

TEAM Marlborough:

Nick d'Auvergne (c), Tim Abrahams, Chris Gibb, Greg Knowles, Ben McLennan, Sean Neal, Josh Poole, Chris Pope, Ben Stark, Greg Stretch, Matthew Stretch, Josh Clarkson. 

The Marlborough Express