Crucial points at stake in cup quest Outright win needed over HB
Taranaki's hopes of a Hawke Cup challenge go on the line this weekend.
Taranaki play Hawke's Bay at New Plymouth's Pukekura Park in the final qualifying round of the two-day competition.
The match throws up an intriguing scenario, with both teams requiring an outright win and a first-innings loss by Manawatu in their game against Wairarapa to remain in the hunt for a challenge.
After four rounds, Manawatu have 31 points, a lead of three on closest rivals Hawke's Bay, with Revital Fertilisers Taranaki another four points back. The remaining three teams are out of the running.
On recent form, Taranaki deserve to start favourites following their convincing outright victory against Wanganui, while Hawke's Bay surrendered the competition lead when losing on first innings to Manawatu.
Taranaki, with a net runs per wicket of +16.82, are ahead of any other team, which would come into play if there is a tie on points.
"A lot of things have to go our way, but we've just got to focus on the game," Taranaki coach Kerry O'Neill said yesterday.
"Both teams are chasing an outright so it makes it an interesting scenario this weekend."
Taranaki's selectors have made two changes from the team that beat Wanganui.
Pace bowler Josh Barrett comes in for all-rounder Ryan Watson, who has been named in a national under-19 squad of 24 players to train in Christchurch over the next week.
The other change sees regular spin bowler Andrew Mason back in place of Rob Northcott after missing the past two matches for family reasons.
"We're probably a little bit more bowling focused for this game, as Josh replaces Ryan Watson, who is an all-rounder. But in saying that, apart from the Manawatu debacle, our batting has been pretty good all season," O'Neill said.
Despite the Pukekura Park groundsmen producing a fresh strip, O'Neill wasn't giving away whether they preferred to bat or bowl first.
But if Taranaki are to control the match, it is likely they will be keen to bowl first and make use of any gremlins in the new pitch.
Spearheading the Taranaki attack will be ex-Zimbabwean international Douglas Hondo and Robert McLeod, with change bowlers Barrett and Jamie Watkins offering medium pace options.
Opening the batting for the home side will be former Black Cap Peter Ingram and Central Districts rep Dean Robinson.
Hawke's Bay have made a number of personnel changes.
Driaan Lubbe and Henry Hunter fill the gaps left by Andrew Mathieson and Ajaz Patel, who are on duty with the Central Districts Stags.
Toby Doyle is in for James Mackie, while Scott Schaw replaces Bronson Meehan, who is unavailable.
Meanwhile, the Hawke Cup goes on the line for the first time this summer in Hamilton this weekend when holders Hamilton take on Northern Districts challengers Bay of Plenty.
AT A GLANCE Taranaki v Hawke's Bay Hawke Cup qualifying Today, tomorrow Pukekura Park New Plymouth TARANAKI: Dion Ebrahim (capt), Peter Ingram, Dean Robinson, James McDougall, Tom Bruce, Moritz Hartman, Andrew Mason, Jamie Watkins, Douglas Hondo, Josh Barrett, Jackson Braddock (w/k), Rob McLeod. Coach Kerry O'Neill.
HAWKE'S BAY: Jacob Smith (c), Jayden Waters, Michael Taiaroa, Seb Langridge (wkt), Ben Jackett, Stevie Smidt, Liam Rukuwai, Toby Doyle, Scott Schaw, Angus Schaw, Driaan Lubbe, Henry Hunter. Coach: Lincoln Doull.
- Taranaki Daily News
Is Ma'a Nonu returning to the Hurricanes ...Related story: Ma'a Nonu's return to Hurricanes confirmed
Get Taranaki's frequent news and sport updates