The Coastal Challenge Cup cricket competition resumes this weekend after a three week Yuletide hiatus.
The competition is evenly poised and for the Riverview Motel Whanganui rep players these matches take on an extra edge as the competition heats up for places in the side for their home match against High Mark Homes Wairarapa on January 16/17.
After a comprehensive loss to Hawkes Bay in Napier where the Whanganui side was decimated by unavailability and injuries, the players will be keen to get back into action on their Tasman Tanning Victoria Park home pitch.
On the batting front, Ben Smith may potentially return to the side as he has not been required for the Central Districts Stags in their 20/20 competition and his ability and leadership would be invaluable.
Max Carroll was the only batsmen to stand up in Hawkes Bay with a gutsy unbeaten half century and has since followed that up with a match winning unbeaten 130 for his Property Brookers United side against Kapiti Old Boys.
Wanganui Vet Services Marist veterans Chris Stewart and Mark Fraser continue to score heavily in the Coastal Challenge competition. Player/coach allrounder Ross Kinnerley and fellow Marist players Hadleigh O'Leary and Trent Hemi have been short of runs recently and will be keen to rectify that this weekend.
Sam Sherriff and Matt Simes will resume cricket for their Palmerston North and Wellington club sides respectively.
Former Blacks Caps international Andrew Penn has thrown his name into the selection mix with three quality innings for his United side. His knowledge of the game and tactical nouse would also bring some further benefits to a side keen to perform at home.
Penn's United teammate Chris Sharrock has scored some invaluable runs in the mid lower order this season and his wicket keeping is tidy. William Hocquard is a new addition to the squad and was involved in a match winning century opening partnership on his Marist debut.
On the bowling front the competition is also fierce.
Connor O'Leary was impressive in his last outing with 4 wickets against Wairarapa United CC and his aggression at the start of the innings will be required against Wairarapa. In the same game his Marist teammate Fraser Kinnerley took 3 wickets while only conceding 17 runs from his 10 overs.
Ross Kinnerley has a good rep record over the last 10 years and he can be relied on to perform solidly. United's John Beale has bowled better with each showing this season. He produced a good spell in Hawkes Bay against quality opposition and was good again in United's narrow victory in Paraparaumu where he took 4/35.
Young seamer Hunter Morrison was impressive in demolishing Whanganui Collegiate with 7/28, but he struggled for consistency with his run up in his next outing. Joel Clark, fresh from representing Central Districts at the national U19 tournament, could potentially be called upon for a lot of overs post-Christmas as the pitches dry out.
With good club performances comes more competition for places in the Riverview Motel side to play against Wairarapa. Batsmen pushing on from promising starts and more penetration from the bowling unit, both at the start and throughout the innings by building pressure are some of the improvements the side will be seeking.
Potential future players such as Collegiate's Carter Hobbs, Oscar Mabin, Oscar McVerry and Daniel Burgess will be keen to reinforce their potential after a disappointing CD U17 tournament for the Whanganui side. A strong Manawatu side won the CD tournament comfortably after demolishing Hawkes Bay in the final.
The current rep players will also be keen to improve on their respective records this season. After just three completed matches the top batsmen and bowlers are:
Sam Sheriff 87 runs at 43.5
Ben Smith 74 runs at 37.0
Max Carroll 73 runs at 24.3
Ross Kinnerley 7 wickets at 24.5
Connor O'Leary 3 wickets at 46.8
John Beale 2 wickets at 39.0
Coastal challenge matches on Saturday are: Wanganui Vet Services Marist vs Burger King Red Star at Tasman Tanning Victoria Park, Property Brokers United vs United CC in Masterton, Whanganui Collegiate vs Paraparaumu Medical Centre Cricket Club at Kena Kena Park, Paraparaumu.