The South Canterbury cricket team faces a tough task against Mid Canterbury, with its top four batsmen unavailable for the Hawke Cup clash at Aorangi Oval starting today.
Openers Richie Preston and James Laming are out, along with Gerrit Roux and Jack Harper.
Preston and Roux are attending a wedding, Laming’s hamstring has not recovered from the Southland game, and Harper has moved to Otago University.
Their absence means three players will make their Hawke Cup debuts for South Canterbury – Star batsman Daniel Campbell, Timaru allrounder Brad Leonard and Christchurch-based batsman Malik Patel.
Coach Robin Beeby said it would be difficult, but not impossible, to repeat last year’s outright win over Mid Canterbury with the top four players gone.
“It just give others an opportunity to stand up, and we have some talented young players.”
Beeby will look to his captain, Sam Carlaw, to inflict some damage with the bat and ball, and Glen Drake will need to produce some big runs with the bat to give the home side a chance.
Absences at the top mean Zane Sanders will open with English import Will Watts.
Former South Canterbury age-group player Patel has been called in from his Old Collegians side in Christchurch and will bat at No 3. Carlaw and Drake fill the middle order with wicketkeeper Adam Beck at No 6.
Campbell is on debut as a batsman but he will also be cover for Beck, who is carrying a slight injury.
Also playing his first game for South Canterbury is all-rounder Brad Leonard. Beeby is looking to both debutants to make an impact with the bat.
“We are light on batting so looked to get the batsmen down as far as possible and Brad fits that as a batting all-rounder.”
Leonard will be following in the footsteps of his father, Chris, who played more than 30 games for South Canterbury and was handy with both bat and ball.
Leonard said he was looking forward to making a contribution.
“I’m happy to get a chance.”
Campbell, too, wants to make the most of the opportunity.
He said he would be happy to get among the runs, to make it difficult for Beeby to not give him another go.
Among the frontline bowlers, seamer Nathan McNicol will likely see plenty of action as he has the ability to give batsmen a hurry-up, while James Blackstock and the experienced Craig Hinton will carry heavy workloads.
Carlaw is an excellent spinner and a genuine match-winner if he finds his rhythm.
South Canterbury need to win by an outright and will have a mathematical chance for a challenge if Southland slip up.
Southland beat South Canterbury on the first innings to go to the top of the table after South Canterbury batsmen made good starts but none produced a big score.
The games start at 10.30am today and tomorrow at Aorangi Oval.