Hawke Cup challenge on the line this weekend

George Heagney



Stuff NZ Newspapers



Manawatu¯ have been forced into making a handful of changes as they target a Furlong Cup win this weekend. Manawatu¯ will host Taranaki in a two-day game starting at Fitzherbert Park today, their final game of the Furlong Cup round-robin, where a win will earn Manawatu¯ a Hawke Cup challenge against holders Hawke’s Bay later this month. Manawatu¯ lead the standings in the Furlong Cup, the Central Districts zone, with the winners earning a challenge for the prized Hawke Cup. Taranaki have a game in hand so are not out of the running, but would need to beat Manawatu¯ this weekend. A handful of players are away on Central Districts duty this weekend so coach Luke Murray has made a few changes. Batsman Mason Hughes and wicketkeeper batsman Ma’ara Ave are with CD and batsman Curtis Heaphy is with the CD under-19s. Opening batsman Bayley Latter and all-rounder Jonty Fleck could have come into the equation if they were available, but they are also with the CD under-19s. The replacements are the experienced pair of Brynn Cleaver and Scott Davidson, both returning to the side after a couple of years. Wicketkeeper-batsman Cleaver last played for Manawatu¯ inthe 2017-18 season. He had been in the UK and returned at the end of last year, playing club cricket for Old Boys this season and has been in good form with the bat and gloves. All-rounder Davidson has played rep cricket for Taranaki and Manawatu¯, and should add a lot. He has regularly been scoring runs down the order as player-coach for Palmerston North Boys’ High School and gives them another spin option. Regular Tom O’Connor returns to the side to open the batting in Hughes’ place and all-rounder Floyd na Nagaramoves up from the middle order to No 3 in Ave’s absence. Pace bowler Andre Hoggard also comes in for Carlos Jensen. ‘‘It is a few changes,’’ Murray said. ‘‘From my perspective it’s awesome for Mason and Ma’ara. ‘‘The changes, [the new guys] just slotted in, they have all played a lot of cricket.’’ Murray said they knew the changes were coming and the players were prepared. Despite the factManawatu¯ are in a strong position to finish on top of the standings, Murray still wanted his new-look team to fire this weekend. ‘‘We’re trying to get a first-innings [win], that will give us a Furlong Cup, something we haven’t achieved for a while. It’s still a big game. ‘‘There’s a fair bit riding on the line. If we are after results further down the line in terms of a Hawke Cup challenge, these are the games we’ve really got to front up for and be ready to go and perform.’’ Manawatu¯: Tom O’Connor, Bevan Small, Floyd na Nagara, Arana Noema-Barnett, Trent McGrath, Brynn Cleaver, Scott Davidson, Tim Richards (captain), Ray Toole, Andre Hoggard, Jack Harris, Brad Fulton. Furlong Cup standings: Manawatu¯ 50, Hawke’s Bay 43, Horowhenua Ka¯piti 30, Taranaki 23, Whanganui 22, Wairarapa 12.