It'll be winner takes all when Country comes to town
Nelson and Canterbury Country are facing a winner takes all scenario when they begin their zone 3 Hawke Cup elimination cricket match tomorrow at Saxton Oval.
The two unbeaten teams head into the weekend's two-day clash equal on 27 points, having each secured outright wins over both West Coast and Buller and first innings points against Marlborough. Only this weekend's fixture remains, with the winner heading north for the zone 3 challenge on February 22-24.
Bay of Plenty are the new holders, having amassed a record 701-run first innings total last weekend to easily surpass previous holder Hamilton's paltry score of 225. Bay of Plenty host their first defence against the zone 2 winners Manawatu on February 8-10.
Nelson selector Andrew Cavill acknowledged the significance of this weekend's game and the added incentive for both teams to perform.
"In some ways it's a good way to finish the [zone 3 round] and basically it is a winner take all [situation] so there's plenty on it.
"But we've just got to focus on what we've got to do and if the guys do their jobs properly, I'm pretty confident."
Cavill also has the luxury of naming an unchanged side from the recent Buller victory, provided allrounder Marty Kain has recovered sufficiently from a right shoulder strain that caused him to retire while batting for Athletic College Old Boys in last weekend's club one-dayer against Wakatu.
Kain will play as a batsman regardless, but if he is unable to bowl, then left-arm spinner Dan Wightman will be brought into the side ahead of batsman Matt Macquet. Batsman Ricky Edwards is the only player unavailable for this weekend's match.
"We have had a core of 12 or 13 guys now and that's been the basis of the side, which has been a real positive as well," Cavill said.
"Probably the only downside is that we haven't really been tested this year, you know, put into situations in a game where we've got to fight a little bit or work a little bit harder. But I'm confident that with the way the guys have trained and their approach that their mental application will be up to that to get us through, should the going get tough."
Canterbury Country have the advantage of playing regularly together as part of the Christchurch one-day competition.
"They're a tough side at the best of times. We have to turn up in the right frame of mind and we need to be on song and switched on and ready to go, otherwise we may not get the result that we desire."
Nelson had the better of a rain-affected pre-season encounter between the two sides at the Marsden Rec last November, Nelson scoring 257 for 3 off 55 overs before restricting Canterbury Country to 197 for 9.
And while that has little relevance to their latest encounter, Cavill was still pleased with his players' application and execution in all three disciplines - something he said they would need to replicate over the next two days.
"In terms of a winner take all, there is something at the end of the day, so it'll be full on."
Play is scheduled to start tomorrow at Saxton Oval at 10.30am.
HOW THEY LINE UP
NELSON: Marty Kain, Dan Cooper, Greg Hay, BJ Barnett (captain), Ryan Edwards, Connor Neynens, Matt Macquet, Simon McGowan, Joe O'Connor, Darius Skeaping, Marty King, Dan Wightman.
CANTERBURY COUNTRY: Ash Andrews, Andrew Robertson, Dan Fleming, Dave Fulton, Glen Foulkes, James Tapper, Liam Bartholomeusz, Matt Laffey, Robbie Frew, Tim Muir, Tom Hills, Will Williams.
The Nelson Mail