Frankly the most ardent of Napier Technical Old Boys fans following the New Zealand Knockout Cup-qualifying cricket match in Palmerston North would have questioned their faith in their team yesterday.
But what mattered most was the NTOB players had bought - lock, stock and Big Barrel (sponsors) - into the sermon of their coach, Dale Smidt, after they posted an anaemic-looking total of 155 all out and, sinfully, with 35 balls still left in the vault.
"Yeah, a very close and tense game that was," said a relieved Smidt after captain Liam Rukuwai led his Texans to a nail-biting 11-run victory and a euphoric passage to the club nationals for the eighth time in Auckland in April.
The total looked under done, no matter which way you twisted or turned it akin to a Rubik's Cube.
"You, know I'm emotionally shattered, mate," he said.
The Hawke's Bay campaigners' top batsman, wicketkeeper Matt Edmondson, was away with the Central Districts A side on Provincial A duties in Lincoln, near Christchurch, while Christian Leopard is with the robust CD Stags in their Ford Trophy campaign.
However, Smidt said Palmerston North Marist also lost two CD players, batsman Mitchell Renwick and seamer Navin Patel, so it had evened out things for both sides.
"We didn't bat very well and we know that," he said, having impressed on his men to keep on toiling right up to the last ball, if need be, although the hosts had 23 balls to spare when they were skittled.
The demeanour of the block at Fitzherbert Park yesterday was markedly different from the one NTOB had encountered in their 35-run victory against Taranaki qualifiers Nag 'N' Noggin New Plymouth Marist CC on Saturday.
"It was just hard to score, particularly off slow bowlers," said Smidt, mindful having three spinners in the NTOB equation certainly helped their cause in stifling Palmerston North Marist.
Opening batsman Liam McFarland scored 55 runs from 68 balls, including seven boundaries, in a composed knock as fellow batsmen came and went around him.
Just fellow opener Liam Rukuwai (19 runs) and Izaiah Lang (10) at first drop and No 6 Tom Watson (13) got into double figures while the others made up for cellphone numbers.
Dylan Lynch, Jack Gleeson, Matt Wells, Arana Noema-Barnett, the younger brother of former CD Stags captain Kieran, claimed two scalps each while took one to keep their hopes alive although right-arm off spinner Nic Carter was wicket-less but the most frugal at 1.88 runs an over from eight overs, including a maiden.
But the wicket didn't relent and ruled out any suggestions Palmy North had home advantage through inside knowledge of how it was going to behave.
The opposition batsmen came and went with just as much regularity as NTOB had.
Season No 4 batsman Dave Meiring was the Rock of Gibraltor to be the last wicket to tumble on 65 runs from 118 balls, including five boundaries and two sixes.
That triggered off the high fives, group hugs and back slaps amid all the hoopla after veteran and former CD seamer Jeremy Kuru had enticed Meiring to hit down the throat of Jayden Lennox.
Only Morris (18 runs), wicketkeeper Hugh Symes (13) and Gleeson 15 surpassed the dreaded single-digit figures.
New-ball merchant Stevie Smidt took 4-38 from 10 overs, including two maidens, while left-arm spinner Lennox claimed 3-20 from as many overs, including three maidens.
Kuru (1-12), Indika Senarathne (1-13) and Angus Philpott (1-26) embraced the game of frugality with aplomb.
"Liam made some absolutely brilliant captain's today. His bowling changes were immaculate," said coach Smidt of Rukuwai who only rolled his arm for three overs for no wickets to focus on the bigger picture.
The qualifiers from the other major associations aren't not sorted yet.
"I'm very, very proud of my boys who scrapped their arses off for every single thing today," he said.
Stevie Smidt, going to his third nationals, paid tribute to the batting tail enders - No 9 Bayley Foote (9 runs), No 10 Robbie Brigham (3) and No 11 John Drake (8) - for their contribution.
"They got us another 20 or so near the end so we went in with a chance," said the 28-year-old right-arm seamer.
Foote, a 14-year-old, had forged cameo partnerships with university-bound Brigham and Drake.
"We knew had to bowl well and we were in the game if we had started well," Stevie Smidt said, adding it was redemption of sorts for losing the final last year, mindful Leopard, Edmondson and Jesse Ryder may be available for the nationals depending on the domestic schedules.