Taranaki are not hoisting the white flag just yet in their bid to win a Hawke Cup challenge.
Already 13 points off the pace in third-equal place in the six-team competition, Revital Fertilisers Taranaki are in catch-up mode.
Today, Taranaki take on bottom-of-the-table Horowhenua-Kapiti in Levin.
"We certainly know we're behind the eight ball but Hawke's Bay only have to get a rained-out game like us and we're right back in it," Taranaki coach Kerry O'Neill said.
"So we're still well in the competition. As the old story goes, it doesn't matter where you start, it's where you finish that's important."
Taranaki will field an almost full strength line-up and will be aiming to come away with nothing less than maximum points in order to stay in the race for a challenge.
Doubts earlier in the week over the availability of regular opening batsmen Dean Robinson and Peter Ingram have passed after Ingram passed a fitness test at training on Thursday night and Robinson was not wanted by Central Districts for their Plunket Shield match with Otago.
William Young, who has Central Districts commitments, is the only regular name missing from the team, and former Zimbabwe international allrounder Douglas Hondo was not considered because of a groin injury.
Taranaki will start as clear favourites today, although O'Neill wasn't being drawn into downplaying a youthful Horowhenua-Kapiti side that has just one point from a first-innings loss to Manawatu after they lost outright first up to Hawke's Bay.
"They are a young side on the up and Ewen Thompson [player-coach and former Central Districts stalwart] has done a good job with them since he took over the coaching.
"I would say they will be a lot stronger than Wairarapa, especially their bowlers."
Spearheading the bowling attack for Horowhenua-Kapiti is Central Districts age-group rep Matt Bacon, who will take the new ball with Thompson.
O'Neill said preparations for the match had gone well.
"We're happy with where we are at the moment.
"Sure we had that bad performance against Manawatu [when Taranaki were bowled out for 35 in the first innings and lost outright in one day] but I suppose you're allowed one of those - you wouldn't want two," he quipped.
"They've got some good young bowlers in the side and they certainly feed off Ewen."
O'Neill was confident the Levin wicket would prove good to play on.
"It's a bat-first strip," he said.
He expects the fine weather throughout the week to hold for the weekend.
- Taranaki Daily News
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