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North Otago will play its final qualifying game in the southern zone of the Hawke Cup when it meets Southland at Whitestone Contracting Stadium in Oamaru this weekend.
The home side sits at the top of the points table on 25 points, nine ahead of Otago Country, which this weekend meets South Canterbury in Timaru.
Southland, playing its penultimate game this weekend, is lying third with 12 points, ahead of South Canterbury (10) and Mid Canterbury (5), both of which have a game in hand.
This weekend, Hawke Cup holder Hamilton will face challenger Hawke’s Bay.
North Otago has held the Hawke Cup twice.
It beat holder Manawatu in the 2010-11 season and, five seasons later, brought the cup home from Buller.
This season, North Otago beat Otago Country on the first innings in Alexandra.
At Aorangi Park, in Timaru, it defeated Mid Canterbury, first taking first-innings points and then dismissing Mid Canterbury in its second innings to win outright.
Southland, in its two games, has had a win and a loss.
Second-placed Otago Country has had one win and three drawn games.
Last time out, in a rain-affected two days, North Otago produced a strong finish against South Canterbury.
Play started on the second day at 6pm with 18 overs to be bowled.
The North Otago top order was back in the club house but youngsters Llew Johnson and Tom Dempster came together with the innings teetering at 45 for five.
They produced an unbeaten sixth-wicket stand of 70, guiding North Otago to 115 for five and forcing a draw.
An outright win by either side this weekend will put it in a good place to challenge for the cup.
Canterbury Country or Marlborough will challenge for the cup next, from zone three and the qualifying team from the South will have the last challenge.
North Otago v Southland
North Otago: Jeremiah Shields, Lachlan Kingan, Scott Kitto, Llew Johnson, Jeremy Smith, Stephan Grobler, Tom Dempster, Duncan Drew, Mason James, Cameron Grubb, Brad Fleming.
Southland: Sam Downing, Ryan Duffy, Ben Lockrose, Kieran Lloyd, Matt McCall, Jared McKenzie, Jack Mockford, James Ng, Amarpreet Singh, Hamish Skelt, Jason
Osborne, Kurt Thompson.
- By Terry O'Neill