Taranaki are looking to kick off their 2012-13 Hawke Cup cricket campaign with a win over Manawatu at New Plymouth's Pukekura Park this weekend.
Revital Fertilisers Taranaki have named a full strength side for the opening match of the qualifying series of the two-day competition.
In the lineup are Central District contracted players - William Young and Dean Robinson - and two debutantes, Moritz Hartmann and Douglas Hondo.
Hartmann, a middle order batsman with the Woodleigh club, makes his much-awaited debut for his provincial side.
The New Plymouth primary school teacher and former Taranaki age group player has until now restricted his cricket to playing at the premier club level since leaving school.
He's one of the classiest premier batsmen in the competition and has been for a number of years.
It hasn't been a case of not having had the opportunity of making the step up, just his own personal choice.
"It was more a matter of him committing and saying he wanted to play for Taranaki and he has now done that," said Taranaki coach Kerry O'Neill yesterday.
"He's a player that looks like he can make it at the next level. He's a pretty classy batsman and a good fielder - a good allround cricketer."
Hartmann has worked hard on his game in the five weeks he has been attending rep training after arriving home from England where he played in a club league in the northern hemisphere summer.
Hartmann will bat at No 5 behind openers Peter Ingram and Robinson, with captain Dion Ebrahim at three and Young at four.
The other newcomer is Hondo - a former Zimbabwean international.
A fast bowler, Hondo plays his club cricket for the Hawera United premier side and takes the one available spot in the rep team for an overseas player.
O'Neill said Hondo has fitted in well to the rep squad since arriving late last month.
"We'll use him in the pre-Christmas games on the wickets that suit him," he said.
O'Neill said Hondo hits the wicket hard with the ball, adding Hondo's experience had already proved its worth, with him passing on bowling tips to the young players in the squad.
O'Neill doesn't need telling of the importance for a team to start the cup series well. It's a competition that if you start badly and get off the pace, getting back in contention is almost impossible.
There are six teams chasing the one available spot to challenge for the cup which is currently held by Hamilton. O'Neill was yesterday talking of a first innings win against Manawatu at best.
"The wicket at Pukekura Park is as good as I've seen prepared in years for a Taranaki game," he said. "So you would expect both batting sides might be hard to get out on that. I'd be surprised if it went to an outright result."
Taranaki followed up their solid performance in the Chapple Cup one-day competition in Napier at Labour Weekend beating Taranaki B in a trial match at New Plymouth's Lynmouth Park last Sunday.
O'Neill said the 50-over trial was valuable preparation going into the Hawke Cup opener.
Ironically, the star of the show in the "friendly" was slow left arm bowler Robert Northcott who, while he did not make this team to play Manawatu, put his hand up for future selection.
The Hawera United premier grade player ripped through the B side batting lineup finishing with a five-wicket bag to help the A side to a convincing victory.
Manawatu will be without Black Caps fast bowler Adam Milne, who is in Sri Lanka with the national team, for this weekend's match.
They still have CD reps Bevan Small, Roald Badenhost and former international and player coach Michael Mason to call on.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you think New Plymouth's recycling collection system is up to scratch?Related story: Council wheels out new approach to recycling
Get Taranaki's frequent news and sport updates