Injuries have largely dictated the lineup for Taranaki's crucial Hawke Cup elimination match against Wairarapa this weekend.
With several players possibly on the verge of being shown the door after Taranaki's embarrassing first-up innings loss to Manawatu, a broken rib suffered by Leith Johnston, a groin strain to Douglas Hondo and James McDougall's broken finger might just have offered a stay of execution to some players.
"To be fair, there might have been some changes but injuries made that difficult," Revital Fertilisers Taranaki coach Kerry O'Neill said yesterday. "But it does provide an opportunity for the guys coming in. When we named the team we have told guys that some of them are on notice and this weekend will be a watershed of where they want to go in this team."
The injured trio have been replaced by in-form batsman Tom Bruce, fresh from a century in club cricket last weekend, returning spinner Andrew Mason and debutant Hayden McIntyre who finally gets a crack after being a consistent performer for Inglewood in recent seasons.
O'Neill admitted the squad had gone through a fair amount of soul-searching after the Manawatu loss, with some players not shy about letting their feelings be known at subsequent trainings.
Having scratched just 35 runs together in their first innings against Manawatu, and then backed it up with just 80 in their second dig, the pressure goes well and truly on the experienced players like skipper Dion Ebrahim, former New Zealand opener Peter Ingram and rookie Central Districts batsmen Dean Robinson and William Young to provide the scorers with some work to do.
To be fair to O'Neill and fellow selector Ali Jordan, they have, on paper at least, picked the best side at their disposal.
O'Neill admitted he had had better periods in his coaching career since the final ball was bowled against Manawatu.
"Mentally it's been tough and we just have to atone for that last effort," O'Neill said.
Early indications are the Pukekura Park pitch will provide seam, again, but the Taranaki batsmen had to make adjustments, in attitude as well, O'Neill said.
There had been a focus on leaving balls at training, while there had also been a reminder of the attitude that was needed, especially if Taranaki did not want their chances of gaining a Hawke Cup challenge extinguished after just two games.
"There's no use training like Tarzan and playing like Jane," O'Neill said. "It's about when you find yourself in a difficult situation, you have to fight your way out of it. You can't go out there and play shot after shot on those sort of decks because that is just suicidal," he said.
TARANAKI Dion Ebrahim (captain), Peter Ingram, Dean Robinson, William Young, Tom Bruce, Moritz Hartman, Hayden McIntyre, Jamie Watkins, Josh Barrett, Andrew Mason, Jackson Braddock, Rob McLeod.
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