North Otago is only playing for pride this weekend – but it intends to play hard.
The local cricketers have one final Hawke Cup qualifying game, against Mid Canterbury at Centennial Park, to wrap the representative season.
It has not been a vintage campaign, certainly not by the high standards set in recent summers, though a couple of retirements have had a big impact.
Rain washed out all play in the opening round, and North Otago lost on the first innings to both South Canterbury and Southland.
The Penguins are rock bottom of the southern zone with no chance of earning a Hawke Cup challenge, so the best they can do this weekend is finish the campaign on a positive note.
“We’re certainly not giving up,” North Otago manager Pete Cartwright said.
“We’ll prepare as best we can and come at them pretty hard this weekend.
“There’s enough pride in playing Hawke Cup cricket that we will certainly turn up and be ready to play.”
North Otago had extremely limited training and playing opportunities on grass before Christmas thanks to the wet start to summer.
The squad had a “bit of a hit” last week and would be training at the oval twice this week, Cartwright said.
North Otago has conceded 400 runs in an innings twice this summer, and finding some penetration with the ball is a big focus this weekend.
“Yeah, we’ll obviously be trying to bowl less than 100 overs.
“It’s been tough. Class batsmen have got in against us and just made hay, really.”
North Otago is likely to make a couple of changes to its squad.
Brad Fleming is on holiday and rising star Tom Dempster is away with the Otago under-17 team, but Llew Johnson and Mason James are back from under-19 provincial duty.
While North Otago has nothing but pride to play for, Mid Canterbury should be hugely motivated to do well.
If Mid Canterbury gets first-innings points, it will earn a challenge against Hawke Cup holder Southland.
It hosted a low-scoring game in Ashburton last weekend. Chasing 143 to win, and guarantee a challenge, Otago Country folded for 36.
The other significant event this weekend will be the official opening – finally, and depending on weather – of the Payne Pavilion, the new home of North Otago cricket.