Two day glory or two day survival?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Donovan Grobbelaar will be a big factor in his side's battle with Takapuna

While the battle for the top spot in both the Major and Minor Championships intensifies, the focus for both Howick Pakuranga and Grafton United tomorrow afternoon is to force their way into the top four of the Hedley Howarth Trophy before the competition splits ahead of the final three rounds.

Should they be successful they will spend the remainder of the season fighting it out for the Major Championship crown, but if they miss out they will face a battle to avoid relegation.

Howick Pakuranga currently sit in fifth position, 8.33 points behind East Coast Bays in fourth. But they have a mountain to climb on day two of their current match with Takapuna at Onewa Domain. The hosts amassed 321/9 on day one to which the visitors replied with 46/1. The key to Howick's success undoubtedly lies with skipper Andrew de Boorder who is currently 36 not out and looking to add to his current impressive tally of 886 runs for the season.

Aces all-rounder Donovan Grobbelaar also has an important role to play for Howick and, despite the odds being against his side, he says the team will be fighting to the very end of day two: "It is definitely something we are thinking about and have discussed as a team. Obviously relegation comes into the equation if we are not successful so we need to make sure we put a score on the board and win the game. It's time for us to start winning."

If New World Victoria Park Grafton United are to make the top four they must not only overtake Cornwall's day one total of 281 at Cornwall Park but also secure enough points in the process to overturn their current deficit of 8.89 points to Bays.

Grafton will begin the day on 28/1 and while coach Grant Thorpe would welcome a position in the top four he wants his side to focus solely on securing the first innings: "Realistically if we do get first innings points it will take us most of the day and it would take something miraculous for us to get an outright.

"To be honest our biggest focus is on opening up a big gap between us and Cornwall at the bottom of the ladder. If we can get first innings points on Saturday I will be confident of survival going into the last three matches, if we lose then we will be in a relegation battle. However, we are certainly confident ahead of the second day. We scored over 250 in the second innings against Parnell and we have heard that Cornwall won't have Matt Quinn or Rajiv Sharma which will be tough for them as the pitch was flat last week."

In theory no top four side is currently safe leading into the second day. Only 5.01 points separate the quartet of teams that currently top the standings so there are certain to be plenty of nervous glances towards the challenging teams scorecards on Saturday afternoon.

ILG East Coast Bays are the team who will perhaps be looking over their shoulders most anxiously. They currently occupy fourth spot but are in trouble against The Fox Suburbs New Lynn at Ken Maunder Park where the home side will resume on 74/2 in pursuit of Bays 161.

Parnell currently lead the Major Championship but even they have no guarantees as they enter day two of their match with Papatoetoe at the Recreation Ground. The home side racked up an imposing 350 on day one before the visitors lost Aces batsman Tim McIntosh in the short period before the close of play.

In the Minor Championship leaders North Shore could be losing their grip on top spot as they are facing a daunting run chase against Auckland University at Devonport Domain. Varsity posted a total of 351 before striking two blows in the final four overs of play on day one. The visitors will also have two additional frontline bowlers in their ranks for day two as the team's leading wicket taker Vishi Jeet returns to the side alongside left arm fast bowler Chris Dineen who has recovered from a shoulder injury.

Regardless of the Shore result it seems safe to assume HRV Birkenhead City will overtake them at the top of the ladder should they complete an outright victory over Eden Roskill at the Birkenhead War Memorial Ground. The hosts already hold a first innings lead of 179 and could extend that considerably with five wickets still left and Terry Crabb at the crease with 90 to his name.

While the odds seem stacked against a Roskill comeback they will be boosted by the return of star all-rounder Ben Mailata after he missed day one due to  international commitments with the Samoan national side who were competing in the ICC East Asia Pacific T20 competition. Mailata returns in superb form after scoring nearly 300 runs and taking more than 10 wickets in six matches which saw him named player of the tournament.

In the final game Ellerslie will be looking to extend their first innings lead of 73 over Barfoot & Thompson Waitakere City at Michaels Ave. Despite already having first innings points in the bag the home side know that nothing less than an outright victory will suffice if they are to remain in the promotion hunt.

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