Doug Bracewell knows only one way when he reaches out for a ball or bat in domestic men's cricket - that is, go hard or go home.
Returning from nursing a hamstring injury last weekend, Bracewell isn't the type to tread gingerly when he marks his run up for the Heinrich Malan-coached Central Districts Stags as they host the Auckland Aces in the 1 v 2 one-day Ford Trophy semifinal match in New Plymouth today.
"It's full on and I'm ready to go ... so I want to get some good work in there to make sure I'm all right for [today]," says the 27-year-old from Napier when play starts at 11am at Pukekura Park for the top qualifiers.
It wasn't easy for the You Travel Taradale CC premier club member to be on the sidelines as the William Young-captained Stags put their oppositions to the sword but also realises the importance of taking a break to get his body right.
"I was getting over a knee niggle and then I pulled a hammy, which was pretty frustrating, but I have freshened up over a month and I'm ready to go," the Black Cap said, after straining his right hamstring in the final T20 international against the West Indies at Bay Oval and missing the entire series against Pakistan in New Zealand.
"I just had to leave it to the professionals because there's not much you can do but try to get it back to 100 per cent as quick as possible and then get back into it."
The penultimate game against the Northern Districts Knights last weekend at McLean Park, Napier, would have been an ideal platform for Bracewell to put his body through an AA appraisal but rain had other ideas.
"You know, the boys were pretty excited and looking forward to finishing the last game pretty strong but they were disappointed it was rained out.
"That was just bad luck so we've just got to bounce back [today] in the preliminary finals."
Such is Bracewell's steely fortitude and temperament that Malan would have had no hesitation in injected him back in the line up provided the medics had given him a thumbs up.
The right-arm seamer, who bends his back and drives it into the pitch, counts his blessings on returning on time but also is mindful of the hard yards the collective has put in to earn CD another life with the Aces if they stumble today.
"The boys are really confident and I'm lucky enough to come back because they've worked hard to be in the position that they are in so I'm looking forward to getting out there with them again."
Today's winners will claim hosting rights to the grand final while the losers will have a second chance in Wednesday's elimination final against the winners of today's 's 3v4 semifinal in Whangarei between the Knights and Canterbury Kings.
He suspects there'll be some rustiness after not playing for five weeks but expects muscle memory to take control although a fertile mind doesn't need kick starting.
Bracewell says there won't be any complacency in booking a grand final berth so the mission is to eke out a victory today.
He doesn't think last week's washout will break CD's strike that helped muster six consecutive win.
"If anything it was probably good for the guys to have a rest."
The weather in New Plymouth looks dodgy with rain forecast between 10am to 2pm.
Milne, who took his 100th list A scalp for the Stags earlier in the campaign, will lead the CD attack which includes Black Caps Seth Rance, season seamer Blair Tickner and Bracewell.
But Bracewell also adds batting depth since embarking on a journey with Malan to mutate into a genuine allrounder.
Black Caps batsman George Worker is in form but the talent on paper is unnerving if they all fire.
"A couple of games ago the likes of Adam Milne and Seth Rance came in at the bottom of the order to knock off the runs is what our team's about.
"We've got guys who can win games throughout the line up so they all have experience and can win us games on any given day."
Bracewell says Auckland have been a yardstick side for CD this summer but they'll just be another opposition today.
"We won't look at them too much. We'll just look at what we've been doing well and continuing with that during our campaign."
Bracewell's hoping the Pukekura Park, with its army of picnic-packing fans, will turn out to add some fuel today.
Malan, he says, has been calm and collective and doesn't expect the coach to veer off his mantra much in playing an exciting brand of cricket.
The Stags lost the Burger King Super Smash Twenty20 grand final to the Knights last month and are out to atone for that by picking silverware in the one-dayers and the four-day, red-ball Plunket Shield campaign.
PLAYOFFS LINE UPS
Teams for the preliminary finals of the Ford Trophy one-day domestic matches today (11am starts, no reserve days):
■ 1st v 2nd, Pukekura Park, New Plymouth (2nd life):
CENTRAL DISTRICTS STAGS: William Young (c), Doug Bracewell, Tom Bruce, Josh Clarkson, Dane Cleaver (wk), Adam Milne, Ajaz Patel, Seth Rance, Jesse Ryder, Bevan Small, Ben Smith, Blair Tickner, George Worker.
AUCKLAND ACES: Craig Cachopa (c), Finn Allen, Michael Barry, Graeme Beghin, Jamie Brown, Lockie Ferguson, Donovan Grobbelaar, Ben Horne, Matt McEwan, Tarun Nethula, Glenn Phillips (wk), Jeet Raval, Sean Solia.
■ 3rd v 4th, Cobham Oval, Whangarei:
NORTHERN DISTRICTS KNIGHTS: Dean Brownlie (c), Brent Arnel, Henry Cooper, Daniel Flynn, Zak Gibson, Brett Hampton, Nick Kelly, Scott Kuggeleijn, Daryl Mitchell, Brett Randell, Josef Walker, BJ Watling (wk).
■ CANTERBURY KINGS: Andrew Ellis (c), Blake Coburn, Michael Davidson, Cameron Fletcher (wk), Andrew Hazeldine, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Johnston, Tom Latham, Cole McConchie, Henry Nicholls, Ed Nuttall, Michael Pollard.