Unreal Grass Wicket Wanganui will be chasing a unique three-peat when they face home side Wairarapa in the third round of the Furlong Cup at Masterton's Queen Elizabeth Park tomorrow morning.
Changes to the Chapple Cup tournament in Napier two weeks ago meant Wanganui defeated Wairarapa in both 50-over and Twenty20 matches, therefore this weekend they will be after the clean sweep of all three formats.
"After two defeats to us this season, they'll definitely not want a third," said Wanganui manager Andrew Lock.
"But I don't think we're going to get a whole lot of help from the weather."
According to the MetService, which still lists Masterton on their website's front page, whereas Whanganui was removed after the national map was "simplified", Sunday is scheduled for periods of rain with northwesterlies.
Logic dictates if the game is likely to be decided on first innings points, the team that wins the toss will probably bat first today and aim to put up a quick but competitive total.
However, Wanganui have been guilty this season, especially in the recent Hawke's Bay match where Sunday rain saved them, of staying too much in "one day mode" already – with batsmen getting out cheaply while swinging, or succumbing after making promising starts.
"We have to think whether [batting] is the best scenario, you could put a wager on either way," said Lock.
One of the deciding factors could be the confidence of Wanganui's professional Ben Smith, as the Central Districts batsman is available this weekend with the Stags players all returning to their provincial associations.
Smith's return is very timely, as Wanganui are having to do without young top order player Akhil Kumar, who is down in Lincoln University with Central Districts at the National Under 19 tournament.
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"It's an easy swap for one to the other," said Lock.
"I think CD were very keen for their guys to go out to the provinces and play."
The flip side of that coin is Wairarapa should also welcome back their 50-over and Twenty20 Black Cap bowler Seth Rance.
While able to bat at opener, Smith is likely to come in at first drop following Dominic Rayner and Greg Smith, with the rest of the order remaining similar to the previous Furlong Cup games.
After missing the Chapple Cup weekend, veterans Rayner and Mark Fraser return to the lineup, replacing Chris Stewart and Matt Simes, meaning either Fraser or skipper Dominic Lock will take the wicket keeper gloves.
While he is an acknowledged part-timer, Smith can be a very effective spin bowler on his day and is likely to fulfil this role with Wanganui otherwise basing their attack around the pace of player-coach Vikum Sanjaya, Connor O'Leary, Akash Gill and the returning Ross Kinnerley, who also missed Chapple Cup.
In the absence of Kinnerley, O'Leary stepped up for Wanganui in both their wins over Wairarapa - taking 5-42 in the four wicket win for the 50-over match, and then 3-37 to halt the batsmen's momentum in the 43-run win for the Twenty20 game.
Lock acknowledged it would be good if the undeniably talented, but often erratic, pace bowler could do it again with the red ball.
"Connor works in mysterious ways, you never know.
"It's putting it on the field of play."
Wairarapa had an embarrassing start to the Furlong Cup on November 2 at Donnelly Park, losing by an innings and 113 runs when they were wiped out for 61 and 83, in reply to Horowhenua Kapiti's 257.
However, there were some encouraging signs in their rained out November 16 match against Taranaki in New Plymouth, where they raised 227 and then had the home side at 99-4 when the match was called off.
Play starts at 10.30am.
The Wanganui team is
Dominic Lock (c), Dominic Rayner, Greg Smith, Ben Smith, Sam Sheriff, Mark Fraser, Akash Gill, Fraser Kinnerley, Ross Kinnerley, Chris Sharrock, Connor O'Leary, Vikum Sanjaya (player-coach).