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In a competition with more twists than an Agatha Christie novel, Otago Country can qualify for a Hawke Cup challenge this weekend against Mid Canterbury at the Ashburton Domain.
However, it will not be taking the home side lightly as it is traditionally tough to knock over on its home patch. The Country selectors have retained the same 12 players throughout the season and have been rewarded with some good performances from a team that is leading the zone four competition with 21 points. The home side has 10 points and would need to win outright to leapfrog the leader and give itself a chance at a challenge for the trophy. The game is the final one for the Otago Country side and therefore crucial to the outcome of the season. The James Pyle-led side followed the abandoned game against North Otago with convincing first-innings results against Southland and South Canterbury.
Both sides will be keeping a close eye on the outcome of the game just down State Highway 1 in Timaru as Hawke Cup holder Southland takes on South Canterbury.
The home side is more than capable of pulling off a win against the holder. South Canterbury sits on 13 points and effectively needs an outright win to take the challenge away from Otago Country should the Otago Country side slip up against Mid Canterbury. Just to add another twist in the tale, Mid Canterbury has a game up its sleeve when it plays North Otago in Oamaru next weekend, so from an Otago Country perspective it is vital to its chances that come Sunday night, it has banked at least eight points from a first-innings win.
- Malcolm Jones