Property Brokers United will take a wider squad to Donnelly Park in order to be ready for any eventuality in their Coastal Challenge Cup final with favourites Levin Old Boys on Saturday.
Having made their third Coastal final in four seasons but still yet to win the big one, after claiming ever local Premier 1-2 trophy during their club's history, United enter this game at longer odds than their previous playoffs – when they were comfortably beaten by Paraparaumu sides who, on paper, were not as strong as them.
Playing and hosting their first final since the inaugural 2015-16 Coastal competition, Levin OB have been this summer's form side, easily qualifying top of the table, although their sole loss was at United's hands by 34 runs at Donnelly Park in the last round robin fixture on February 8.
United were still fighting to make the Top 4 at that point, while it is understood Levin released a handful of their players to attend a wedding, given they were safe for having home finals advantage.
"We didn't have our full strength side either. I think they were missing a [good] bowler," recalled United's senior player Gerard Hobbs.
United qualified third with a 6-2-1 record, and then avenged their two-wicket, final-over loss to Tech Old Boys on December 14 with a 94-run hammering in the Victoria Park semifinal last weekend, while Levin OB likewise sent Wairarapa's first-time semifinalists Red Star packing with a 103-run dismantling.
From last weekend's United XI, who all contributed with either bat, ball, or in the field, veteran Stephen Holloway is stepping aside for the return of representative wicketkeeper and batsman Matt Simes.
In addition, former representative pace bowler Ryan Slight and batsman Trey Bidois are both coming back from university, the latter flying all the way home from Christchurch.
With a 12pm start time, the MetService is forecasting morning rain and then clouds with northerlies, creating the possibility of a reduced overs game – like was seen last year in the 28-over slog between Wanganui Vet Services Marist and Paraparaumu.
Hobbs said what the weather does and how many overs they play will decide the makeup of their final XI, which won't be confirmed until match time.
Cricket: United back into Coastal Challenge final after big derby win over Tech
From Whanganui club cricket to being named in ICC Under 19 World Cup team
Cricket: Wanganui United retain Premier Twenty20 title for another season
"Who knows? That's why we're taking down 13, because a lot will change if it's a shorter game. Need more of the bowlers.
"We're batting right down, someone like [allrounder] Robbie Power might be coming in at No 10.
"Donnelly Park's quite a good batting ground anyway.
"We're going to really rely on our experience this time. Third time lucky, hopefully.
"We've looked at ourselves, we do focus on Coastal now.
"There's a lot of us looking to get that Coastal [title] under our belts, not that anyone is retiring, but before we retire — I'll be the first.
"We've got a full squad, no injuries, no excuses."
It was not been Slight's strongest summer with the ball, while Hobbs acknowledged they were waiting for top order batsman Greg Smith to produce a really big innings at club level, similar to his century-making form in the Furlong Cup against Horowhenua-Kapiti, which included several of Levin's bowlers.
"We're hoping they can come to the party.
"John Beale has been good for us this year, just come out of nowhere."
Having made five appearances in 50-over games, Beale provided absolutely crucial lower order scores of 43 not out and 42no against Levin and Tech respectively to guide his team to defendable totals, while he has taken six wickets at a healthy average.
Skipper Simon Badger, spinner Chris Sharrock, slogger and bowler Brendon Walker and veteran batsman/spinner Tom Lance have all had key moments in games over the past four months with either/or the bat and the ball.
Scanning the Levin ranks, right arm fast bowler Fraser Bartholomew must be respected after he topped the Furlong Cup standings with 23 dismissals, and while he only has eight in Coastal Challenge, his team mates Daemon Kennett (18) and Ryan Taylor (17) can handle the white ball.
Topping the competition's batting and MVP standings is Dion Sanson, who is averaging 69.71 this season, the highlight of which was his majestic 200no against Whanganui Collegiate on December 14.
However, that innings aside, Sanson's other scores have been a little more sedate, especially in the last couple of games, which is a similar story to another match-winner of previous seasons in Matt Good.
"It only takes one ball to take a good batsman out," said Hobbs.
He is wary of what could happen if Jamie Pinfold gets going at the top of the order, while with four half centuries in six innings, allrounder Bailey Te Tomo is a big match player.
In the other games, Tech are confirmed to come third place, their highest finish since winning the 2015-16 title, as the usual end-of-season defaults rear their heads.
Red Star have opted not to make the long trip to Victoria Park, while Marist will also default for the second weekend in a row, this time to Weraroa CC.
Therefore, Tech's standout allrounder Akash Gill will miss the chance to surpass Sanson and Weraroa's Daniel Williams on top of the MVP statistics – having had an excellent campaign with 291 runs at 48.50 and 18 wickets at 17.72.
Paraparaumu are still scheduled to play their Horowhenua-Kapiti derby with Kapiti Old Boys.
The United wider squad is:
Alex Kayser, Tom Lance, Gerard Hobbs, Greg Smith, Chris Sharrock, Brendon Walker, Simon Badger (c), John Beale, Robbie Power, Ritesh Verma, Matt Simes, Trey Bidois, Ryan Slight.