It's simple to state but much more difficult to do – Air Chathams Wanganui must find a way to fight with the same resolve that they show on Sunday afternoons when they take the crease on Saturday's.

Wanganui's fourth round Furlong Cup match with home side Taranaki at Pukekura Park this weekend is surprisingly a battle to avoid the wooden spoon as their northern neighbours, who normally challenge Hawke's Bay for supremacy of the Central Districts region, have had a disappointing campaign so far.

The Wanganui lineup chosen by selector Tom Lance is predominantly the same side that batted out the draw with a first innings points loss to Horowhenua-Kapiti a fortnight ago, but with one significant addition and subtraction.

Professional Ben Smith retired hurt in that game with an injured hamstring and has not recovered, diminishing the batting stocks.


Meanwhile, one of the old guard has finally returned as former captain/coach Dominic Rayner comes in for Collegiate's Kashish Nauhria.

Rayner returned to Whanganui after the season started following an extended holiday in North America.

While not available for the previous match, Rayner had let Lance know he was ready to go, following a summer where his contemporaries like Mark Fraser, Chris Stewart, Simon Badger and Nick Harding all previously withdrew from consideration when the team was under the auspices of the now-departed Charlie Hartley.

Without Smith, Dominic Lock will again captain the side, while Sam Sherriff and Joel Clark will be match fit after just returning from representing Central Districts at the Under 17 National Tournament in Lincoln.

Having injured his shoulder in the Horowhenua-Kapiti match, key allrounder Akash Gill has been passed fit for muster, as manager Andrew Lock said they used him carefully when playing for Watson's Tech in the Bullocks Coastal Challenge last weekend.

"Batting, he'll be fine, we'll see for the bowling."

Wanganui's Furlong Cup campaign has fallen into a familiar pattern in the last three matches – being put under the pump in their first innings on Saturday's to surrender those points, but avoiding outright defeats with some characteristic heart in the second turn at bat or with the ball.

Rather than waiting for the fear of fighting for survival, the top order must find a way to settle in when they are fresh and the game's outcome is still up in the air, after giving away horror starts against Hawke's Bay (84 all out), Manawatu (71-6) and Horowhenua-Kapiti (31-5).


Against Manawatu, John McIlraith nearly salvaged first innings points with a half century, while in the other matches different players dug in to bat out the draw under pressure – the departed Hartley and Angus Dinwiddie in the first game, a defiant Sam Sherriff and Chris Sharrock in the third.

"It seems we can bat on a Sunday. Just need to bat on a Saturday, rather than spending all day in the field," said Andrew Lock.

"I'm well aware we've got quality players, players that can do the job.

"It's just a matter of doing them in the first session.

"Don't know what the wicket's like up there, out of my control."

Lock rates Simes as a better red-ball batsman than a white-ball player, one of the few specialists in Whanganui, and this can be seen in the way Simes has carried his bat or been the last man standing for Property Brokers United in several matches this summer.

"There's plenty of those sort of guys that can do that," Lock said.

"Sam [Sherriff] has obviously been batting all week."

By their own standards, which includes winning the Chapple Cup 50-over tournament in November, Taranaki have had a bad Furlong Cup campaign so far.

An opening day batting collapse of their own saw them lose first innings points to Manawatu in New Plymouth, their away game to Wairarapa was rained out without a ball bowled, and then this month they lost to Hawke's Bay outright by nine wickets.

Dean Robinson has been carrying the batting with two centuries and an average of 72 from five innings, while spinner Mattie Thomas and fast bowler Ryan Watson, Wanganui's nemesis, each have nine wickets so far.

Play starts at 10.30am.

The Wanganui team is:
Dominic Lock (c), Akash Gill, John McIlraith, Hadleigh O'Leary, Connor O'Leary, Matthew Simes, Joel Clark, Chris Sharrock, Sam Sherriff, Akhil Kumar, Dominic Rayner.