Like the twilight zone between humour and vulgarity, sports teams often tend to find themselves saddled in a transitional phase of a competition.
The Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags are a case in point.
Having set the pace for a lion's share of the four-day Plunket Shield cricket competition this summer, the Kieran Noema-Barnett captained side enter the twilight zone of the first-class competition tomorrow in the penultimate round at Rangiora.
The green machine, with veteran Mathew Sinclair revealing after a mediocre HRV Cup Twenty/20 campaign they were determined to etch their name on the Shield as well as retain the one-day Ford Trophy competition, will run on to Mainpower Oval mindful they need to treat fourth-placed Canterbury Wizards as another team who need to be taken care of as painlessly and clinically as possible.
"We are not getting distracted by the situation on the table," CD coach Alan Hunt said before the team jetted off yesterday.
"We will be taking the game each ball, each over and each session, which is something we've done the whole season, and, if we do that in this round, everything will take care of itself," says Hunt (pictured) of CD who will host the Northern Districts Knights at Saxton Oval, Nelson, from February 20 in the last round.
Perched on the top rung of the Shield table, CD are 13 points ahead of the Otago Volts, who host last-placed Auckland Aces at the University Oval from tomorrow.
Third-placed Knights host fifth-placed Wellington Firebirds at Cobham Oval, Whangarei.
The Stags will be without Ross Taylor (back to international duties), speed merchant Kyle Jarvis, who emulates Taylor in Zimbabwe colours, and seamer Bevan Small, who took seven wickets in the crushing 191-run victory over the Aces in the last round, because of a knee injury.
In come pedigree Black Caps opener Doug Bracewell and tireless seamer Andrew Lamb from a niggly hamstring strain.
"Lambie is 100 per cent fit. He's bowling the required load and the physiotherapist [Anthony Sharp] has cleared him," Hunt says.
Primarily, he expects Bracewell and legspinner Tarun Nethula to add some oomph to the innings as tail-order batsmen on the foundation of a solid top six.
With Canterbury coach Gary Stead describing the wicket as keeping low and slow before providing some purchase for spinners, it remains to be seen if Hunt will go with the twin-spin action of Nethula and Ajaz Patel, who helped beat the Wizards by 81 runs at McLean Park late last month.
Stead said last night Tim Johnston, Todd Astle and part-timer George Worker would feature in their attack.
"We had chances at McLean Park and we didn't take them so we need to do that this time."
Cleaning up the CD tail efficiently is on the agenda.
"We're playing for pride," he said, adding captain Peter Fulton, as a top run scorer, and Dean Brownlie are in the Black Caps equation, too.