Wanganui senior cricket team manager Andrew Lock has found himself in a frustrating table-top game, trying to set up 12 pieces when they keep falling like dominoes.
Yesterday afternoon, Lock was still trying to confirm a 12th man for the start of tomorrow's crucial Hawke Cup match with Hawkes Bay in Napier in a rejigged lineup hit with injury and prior commitments.
Central District's age-group representative Andre Halbert, who debuted in the first innings victory over Wairarapa last fortnight, is out after being hurt at training last weekend.
Captain Andrew McCaa came away from Wednesday night's training session a doubtful starter, with a hairline fracture in his foot, while the biggest blow is to Ben Smith's finger, which needs assessment coming out of Central District's Plunket Shield match with Otago this week.
Expecting the joy of fatherhood soon, senior player Brett Turner has withdrawn while New Zealand Under 19 representative Nick Blundell has commitments in Wellington.
Even if declared fit, the injury clouds above McCaa and especially Smith whose century carried Wanganui's innings against Wairarapa puts pressure on the youth brigade to shoulder the burden against one of the heavyweights.
"The challenge of 12 players in a small town is not always easy," said Lock, who had been making plenty of phone calls.
"All is not lost but it is still very difficult against a Hawkes Bay team that could potentially put out a number of ex-Black Caps or First Class players."
After an impressive 103 for Wanganui High School on Saturday, Bevan Hunter has played his way into the side, while from that same game Marist's Ross Kinnerley shored up the bowling attack.
United batsman Tom Lance is still unavailable but Brett Cameron, coming off 96 from 80 balls for Marist, is in solid touch.
It is frustrating for Lock that Wanganui cannot put its best foot forward given Hawkes Bay could be vulnerable if day two of their victory over Horowhenua-Kapiti two weeks ago is any indication.
While winning the game outright, Hawkes Bay did leak more than 200 runs in Horowhenua-Kapiti's second turn at bat after knocking them over for 92 first up, then lost virtually their entire top order during the simple task of collecting fewer than 50 runs for victory.
"It shows that it can be done and [Horowhenua-Kapiti] have a very young team," said Lock.
"It's not obviously the ideal game [for our youth] to step up and do it, but they will."
This weekend is the last away Hawke Cup match before Wanganui have a home run - starting with heavyweights Manawatu on December 15-16, followed by Taranaki and Horowhenua-Kapiti in January.
Possible Wanganui team
Andrew McCaa (c), Brett Cameron, Max Carroll, Henry Collier, Mark Fraser, Trent Hemi, Bevan Hunter, Ross Kinnerley, Dominic Lock, Dominic Rayner, Ben Smith.