Richard DavidsonSouth Canterbury cricket coach Richard Davidson has labelled this weekend’s Hawke Cup match against Southland his most important game at the helm.

Just who will get the first Hawke Cup challenge of the season is still unclear, as two matches have the possibility to decide who will face Cup-holders North Otago next weekend.

“This weekend’s game is the most important one, because the simple fact is that there is every chance that we could win the zone, and we haven’t been in that position for a number of years,” Davidson said.

“I still don’t think we’ve played our best cricket, and yet we find ourselves in the position we are in.”

South Canterbury and Southland are locked on 18 points, meaning first innings points could be crucial, and an outright win should see South Canterbury travel to Oamaru next weekend.

Otago Country play Mid-Canterbury, with an outright win for either side likely enough for them to claim a Hawke Cup Challenge.

Davidson said the chances of forcing an outright win were slim, given the placid Aorangi Oval wicket and poor weather forecast.

There is one surprise selection to the “Green and Blacks” side for the match tomorrow.

Temuka’s Les Humphris comes in to the team for Timaru’s Jordan Morrow, while Matt Mealings returns, replacing Celtic teammate James Laming, who has not recovered from a hand injury well enough to play this weekend.

Davidson said Morrow could consider himself unlucky to miss out, after taking a five-wicket bag in the second innings of a two-day club match against Waimate last weekend, and proving to be economical. “He’s [Morrow] done nothing wrong, but we felt Les had made a reasonable fist of club cricket. He could possibly strengthen the middle-order batting also – he’s likely to bat six or seven.”

Humphris had been an opener for Temuka this season, and proven handy with his medium-pace bowling as well. “[Morrow] did not do a lot of bowling against [Otago Country], and probably Les’s batting may have swayed it towards him playing, because the bowling is very similar.”

Davidson said Mealings had scored the runs needed at club level since his demotion from the side at the start of the season, and deserved his chance to fill in for James Laming. “If you look at Matt Mealings, he went back, played club cricket and did exactly what we asked of him, so there are no issues with him coming back when James is injured. He’s scored plenty of club runs in the last month.”

Davidson said he was “open to bowling first because the pitch may be a bit greener than it usually is” but he said he said the toss was not his main concern.

The rest of the line-up looks settled, although the batsmen will have to get over their inability to make a big first innings total this campaign if they want a trip to Oamaru.

Sam Carlaw is expected to bowl a lot of overs – the orthodox spinner is coming off 10 wickets in a two-day match against Roncalli, and is likely to share spin duties with Craig Davies.

South Canterbury: Dan Laming (c), Craig Davies, Richie Preston, Jeremy Liddy, Matt Mealings, Glenn Matthews, Alex McKenzie, Les Humphris, Sam Carlaw, Kevin Teahen, Craig Hinton, Blair Brown (12th man).

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