It will be all systems go when Central Hinds and Auckland Hearts do battle in a series of national competition women's cricket matches at Queen Elizabeth Park Oval in Masterton over the next three days.
Points achieved in the Twenty20 fixture today (starting at 2.30pm) and the two limited-overs games on Saturday and Sunday (10.30am start) will be crucial as the sides look to establish themselves as front-runners for both crowns.
The Twenty20 match has taken on extra importance because neither team has managed to pick up any points from their opening game; Hinds losing to Wellington Blaze and Hearts to Otago Sparks. Another loss today would place either team's finals hopes in jeopardy.
The limited-overs competition sees Hearts leading the way after securing successive wins over the Sparks. They have nine points while Hinds are in second-equal place on five after a bonus-point win and a loss to the Blaze.
Former Wairarapa player Eimear Richardson seems sure to play a prominent part with bat and ball for the Hinds, two members of which, Sara McGlashan and Rachel Priest, have just been named in the White Ferns for the upcoming Rose Bowl series against Australia.
McGlashan is a top order batswoman whose solid form against the Blaze suggests she is in the right form to plunder runs on a park oval pitch which should have few tricks in it and the same can be said of Priest, who is not only a proven run-scorer but also a talented wicketkeeper.
Hearts have just the one player in the Rose Bowl line-up, Katie Perkins, and no scalp will be prized more by the Hinds attack. It was her 65 not out which was the main catalyst to the first of the limited-overs win against the Sparks.
Wairarapa already had five players on the unavailable list for this weekend's Hawke Cup qualifying round match with Taranaki at New Plymouth when they turned up for training on Wednesday and that number became seven when spinner Nash Patel and medium pacer Jared Watt also pulled out.
Selector-coach Sam Curtis is still optimistic, however, that Wairarapa will give the home team a run for their money, saying past history suggests the track will offer few terrors for the batsmen .
"Patience is the key, you have to be prepared to bat time, to not play rash shots."
Making their debuts for Wairarapa will be all-rounder Harry Greenwood and medium pacer Jock Cameron.
The Wairarapa team is: Tim Lucas, Sean Jarvis, Henry Cameron, Joe Hull, Alex Treseder, Ben Foster, Gordon Reisima, Harry Greenwood, Daniel Haston, Martin Reisima, Jock Cameron, Stefan Hook-Sporry.
Flight Centre Lansdowne have been the big improvers in the Wairarapa Cricket Association's Umpires Cup competition and their match against front-runners Wairarapa College at Wairarapa College tomorrow should provide an interesting contest. Both teams have key players away on rep duty and the quality of their replacements is likely to have a big say in the end result.
The form book says Red Star should be comfortable victors over a winless Newbolds Marist Old Boys at the Park Sportsground but here, too, the clash with the Hawke Cup fixtures means Red Star will field a weakened side. An upset win to MOB is by no means an impossibility.
Bragging rights will be keenly sought when the two Greytown-based sides, A1 Homes Kuranui Old Boys and Turkey Red Greytown, meet at Greytown and it would take a brave punter to bet heavily on the result of this one.
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