As serious a sport as cricket can be there's no escaping the fact that the country's No 1 summer code also has its silly season.

No one knows that better than Pay Excellence Hawke's Bay senior men's representative team coach Colin Schaw.

The demarcation kicks in about now as the Bay men will ask for middle and leg at Queen Elizabeth Park, Masterton, from today to begin their two-day Furlong Cup campaign among rival Central Districts catchment area teams to see who will earn the right to challenge for the Hawke Cup, the symbol of minor association supremacy which they lifted two summers ago.

"It's a totally different game, even from the Furlong Cup so the [challenge] just goes up another level, really," says Schaw of the Hawke Cup.

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Last summer the Jacob Smith-captained Bay side earned the right to challenge the then holders, Bay of Plenty, but found no cigar in trying to make the three-day transition after two-day qualifiers.

The Hawke's Bay men won the one-day CD interdistrict Chapple Cup at Nelson Park, Napier last month and also had the measure of Poverty Bay in the annual Kirk Cup clash last weekend at the same venue.

But the advent of Furlong Cup two-day matches this weekend demands a different work ethic, leading to serious opposition such as Manawatu and Taranaki in the CD catchment area.

That, of course, doesn't mean Schaw and his troops are taking Wairarapa lightly today.

"It's one of those things where Wairarapa can be a dogged team so we'll just have to show some patience," he says.

While relieved they aren't hosting the opening round at Nelson Park, he sees the irony in that the weather forecast is no different in Masterton - although he's mindful the foothills of the towering Rimutakas tend to ward off rain.

No doubt, claiming first-innings points is imperative in the bigger scheme of things to accumulate points if the opportunity isn't there to eke out outright victories.

The Bay will be without Big Barrel Napier Technical Old Boys (NTOB) allrounder Christian Leopard, who has withdrawn because of a shoulder injury he picked up in the clash against Poverty Bay.

"It's flared up so we don't want to risk him so we've had to leave him out," says Schaw of the former New Zealand under-19 World Cup representative.

Enter Robbie Brigham, although he isn't a like-for-like replacement for Leopard.

Schaw says the left-arm seamer will bolster their bowling ranks while Bayleys Real Estate Havelock North batsman James Field shuffles up to open the batting with Smith.

In the other change, NTOB's Matt Edmondson takes the wicketkeeping gloves from Scott Schaw, of Ruahine Motors Central Hawke's Bay.

However, the coach doesn't want his players to take a lackadaisical approach to this weekend's game.

"It'll be a good test of the guys' mental attitude."

With last summer's batsman, Brad Schmulian, of Auckland, announcing his rival in the domestic arena with a double century for the CD Stags in the opening Plunket Shield match against Northern Districts Knights in the four-day Plunket Shield campaign, it begs the question who else has the fortitude to be a stayer in the minor association red-ball competition.

Schaw is comfortable in the knowledge his top eight batsmen can occupy the Gaza strip of cricket.

He feels those aspiring for higher honours, including selection for the CD A side, should make the most of opportunities Furlong Cup games will offer to make the work easier for the selectors.

Two more South African-born players are in the Bay equation - CHB tweaker GC Pretorius and You Travel Taradale CC batsman Dean Foxcroft, who will come in at first drop.

It's still fresh in Schaw's mind that his players grassed a few balls in sloppy patches of fielding. While it was a blemish-free return against Poverty Bay, he knows too well the variables can change dramatically against stiffer teams when there's more at stake.

"We took some exceptional catches. We were a little slack in one game in the Chapple Cup against Nelson but barring that it was brilliant."

After his players have spent a lot of time in dress rehearsals, Schaw says they are itching to take centre stage now.

BOTH TEAMS

The Pay Excellence HB senior men's representative team and Wairarapa teams to play in the opening Furlong Cup match at Queen Elizabeth Park, Masterton, this weekend:

WAIRARAPA: Choi Jackson, John McKenzie, Liam Burling, Brock Price, Robbie Speers, Dan Ingham (c), Simon Clinton-Baker, Jack Forrester (wkt), Stefan Hook, Quinn Childs, Quincey Stephens, Jared Watt.

Coach: Neil Perry.

HAWKE'S BAY: Jacob Smith (c, Cornwall), James Field (Havelock North), Dean Foxcroft (Taradale), Matt Edmondson (wkt, NTOB), Graeme Tryon (Havelock North), Scott Schaw (CHB), Angus Schaw (CHB), GC Pretorius (CHB), Liam Rukuwai (NTOB), Todd Watson (NTOB), Ben Stoyanoff (Taradale), Robbie Brigham (NTOB).

Coach: Colin Schaw.
Manager: John Jowsey.
Scorer: Neil Jackett.