New Plymouth Marist United will be chasing a rare three-peat when they line up in the premier one-day final against Woodleigh tomorrow.
The match, on what promises to be an even Pukekura Park surface, is a repeat of the 2009-10 final when Woodleigh finally broke their Taranaki one-day title drought.
It has been lean pickings since, though - tomorrow's match will be their first time back at Taranaki's premier cricket venue.
There is normally no shortage of feeling in matches between the two New Plymouth sides and tomorrow should be no exception.
"There is a friendly rivalry there because a lot of the guys do know each other quite well so we're always keen to play Marist," Woodleigh captain Hayden Whiting said.
His side found good form late in the one-day competition to end up qualifying third in the round robin. They carried that form on to claim their spot in the final after beating Inglewood in an away semifinal last month.
On paper, Woodleigh have a more than useful bowling attack, which will be led by paceman Codey Rei and in-form Taranaki fast bowler Robert McLeod. The latter bowled particularly well for his province in last week's rep match against Wairarapa, taking four first-innings wickets.
There is capable back-up from Whiting, with former CD A bowler Andrew Mason offering a more than useful spin option.
A fifth bowling option for Woodleigh is English allrounder Luke Tuckett, who is the leading wicket-taker in the competition.
Woodleigh will look to Taranaki rep Moritz Hartmann, Phillip Barraclough, Whiting and Tuckett to fire with the bat, while pinch hitter Kenny Roycroft can be a dangerman when in form.
Whiting's only concern heading into the final was the lack of any outdoor training this week because of the weather.
He had his fingers crossed his side's two-day competition match against Stratford would be played today to give his men a good hitout before the final.
Meanwhile, the full-strength Marist United side has the advantage of being able to call on recent finals cricket experience.
"We had a few injury scares last week, but everyone is fit now and ready to go," Marist United captain Ryan Fleming said yesterday.
That, of course, includes opening batsman Dean Robinson, who was not required for the Central Stags in their Twenty20 match against Wellington last night, leaving him free to play for his club side this weekend.
Opening batsmen Jason Meuli and Robinson are both in good touch, as they showed when scoring centuries last weekend.
With Fleming, Jarred Cunningham, Matt Sim, Leith Johnston and Ethan Bolstad further down the order, Marist United do not lack any firepower in their batting line up.
Heading the bowling attack is Taranaki rep Josh Barrett, who also picked up a four-wicket bag for Taranaki in their rep fixture last weekend.
Marist is normally a sharp fielding unit, a skill that has helped them to claim plenty of opposition scalps. Fleming agreed it was a strength of the team. "It's where we have won some of our finals and our key games.
"That is what we think separates us from the other teams - our work in the field."
He said the last thing he wants is a rain-affected final.
"We want to see 50 overs' batting for each side and see which team is the best."
If the final is not played, then the top qualifier, Marist United, is declared the championship winner.
- Taranaki Daily News
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