Covid-19 has had an unexpected benefit for the Horowhenua-Kāpiti cricket as it hosts the Chapple Cup for the first time, with the three day tournament starting with games at Donnelly Park today.
The best players in the lower North Island will be on show with teams from Taranaki, Hawke's Bay, Manawatū, Wairarapa, Nelson, Whanganui and Marlborough joining the local team in what is a co-hosting arrangement with Manawatū.
Preliminary games would be held at Donnelly Park in Levin and Fitzherbert Park in Palmerston North today
, with finals to be played in Palmerston North on Sunday.
HKCA chief executive Dave O'Brien said it was a real coup to host the tournament and Horowhenua's central location meant all associations were in favour of the move as it limited travel costs, which were shared among each association.
"It benefits everyone," he said.
The tournament had traditionally been held in Hawke's Bay.
O'Brien said it made fiscal sense and also provided the local association a chance to showcase it wickets and facilities. He said they were fortunate to have brilliant groundsman in the region preparing first class wickets.
"As you know there is a dedicated team that prepares these wickets to a high standard, so we are extremely lucky. There are four really good grass blocks in Levin now," he said.
"We don't get to see the calibre of these teams play white ball cricket very often so it is very exciting."
Meanwhile, the unavailability of several key players for Horowhenua-Kāpiti has opened the door for a host of youngsters to be given their opportunity to taste representative cricket.
Teenagers Jaedyn Dawson, Blake De Burgh and Thomas Harris have shown enough good form in club cricket to warrant the elevation and don the baggy red cap.
Normal first pick players Jayden Keets, Keegan McLaughlan, Liam Pinfold, Kelsey Fahey, Damon Kennet and Andre Halbert were all unavailable either through injury or other commitments.
HK Bears player-coach Chad Law said carrying a wider squad of more than 20 players through early pre-season camps was now paying dividends, as the replacements that had to be brought in were already part of the wider squad.
The eight-week camps had been a good opportunity to see where players were at and Law was confident they were ready to give a good account of themselves.
"We have built up a big squad, and in hindsight it is lucky we did," he said.
The HK Bears have gone for a leadership group rather than an outright captain to replace last season's skipper Andre Halbert, who is unavailable.
The leadership group would consist of Law, Matt Good, Dion Sanson and Carter Andrews.
"We're excited. But we'll take it one game at a time," he said.
The four winning teams on day one progress to play for the Chapple Cup, while the four unsuccessful side will play off for the Cave Cup, with finals for each on Sunday. The unsuccessful round two teams will finish the tournament by playing T20 matches on Sunday.
Horowhenua-Kāpiti Bears: Jamie Pinfold - Levin Old Boys CC, Dion Sanson - Levin Old Boys CC, Chad Law - player-coach - Levin Old Boys CC, Matt Good - Levin Old Boys CC, Bailey Te Tomo - Levin Old Boys CC, Blake de Burgh - Weraroa CC, Dylan Reder - Paraparaumu CC, Carter Andrews - Kapiti Old Boys CC, Xitij Sakhalkar - Levin Old Boys CC, Jaedyn Dawson - Weraroa CC, Fraser Bartholomew - Levin Old Boys CC, Zack Benton - Kapiti Old Boys CC, Thomas Harris - Kapiti Old Boys CC.
Chapple Cup: Round One, Friday, November 20.
Manawatū v Wairarapa - city block.
Tararanaki v Hawke's Bay - river block.
Horowhenua-Kāpiti v Nelson - Donnelly Park No 5.
Whanganui v Marlborough - Donnelly Park No 4.