Hawke's Bay might feel the Hawke Cup is sitting in its rightful place among the training gear and nets at Nelson Park in Napier - but Bay of Plenty cricketers have different ideas.

Bay of Plenty will challenge for the minor association cricket's equivalent of rugby's Ranfurly Shield in a three-day game starting today.

"They can't have the bloody Ranfurly Shield and Hawke Cup at the same time now, can they?" said Hawke's Bay cricket coach Colin Schaw with his geography slightly awry as the Ranfurly Shield is currently in Waikato hands.

The game is hosts Hawke's Bay's first defence after winning the cup from North Otago in Oamaru a fortnight ago.


"[BOP] are a good group but our goal is to keep [the cup] here for the winter," said Schaw, mindful that both teams from sprawling major association regions have a proud history in the competition dubbed the minor association test match.

The Bay of Plenty team has plenty of experience in the red-hot furnace of Hawke Cup direct challenges, with a combined 46 Hawke Cup appearances since the unsuccessful challenge against Manawatu in 2010.

Of the current players, Bay of Plenty captain Peter Drysdale has the most appearances, having played in seven direct challenges, scoring 290 runs and taking one wicket.

Northern Knights all-rounder Brett Hampton has made an indelible mark on the all time Hawke Cup batting and bowling list. Hampton sits in second place behind only Derek Beard (549) with 512 runs so has the opportunity to own the record after the weekend's game. He also sits in fourth place in the bowling stakes with 16 bowling scalps, behind Tony Goodin (34) Derek Beard (17) and former Glamorgan player and coach John Derrick (16).

Drysdale (67), Jono Boult (65), Tim Clarke (55) and Hampton (53) have all played over 50 games in the Bay of Plenty uniform. Just Chris Atkinson and Campbell Thomas will be making their Hawke Cup direct challenge debuts. Bay of Plenty coach, former Northern Knights' pace bowler Graeme Aldridge, described the side as reasonably settled.

"I guess three ND boys helps us ... but it doesn't mean a whole lot unless we perform."

Last weekend Bay of Plenty lost their final Fergus Hickey Rosebowl game to Poverty Bay but Aldridge said they weren't losing sleep over it, after having won the competition.

Both sides are expecting a traditionally flat deck at Nelson Park.

Three seasons ago, Bay of Plenty beat Hamilton to lift the cup, scoring a new Hawke Cup highest score of 701, then defended the trophy on four occasions before losing to Manawatu in February 2014.

Since Bay of Plenty first contested the Hawke Cup in 1932, they have contested 27 direct challenges winning the prize on 11 occasions.