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Rain, rain, and more rain

John McKenzie adds depth and experience to the United batting line-up. PHOTOS/FILE


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The unremitting rain over the lower North Island has forced this weekend’s Coastal Challenge two-day games on to artificial pitches.

United were scheduled to play Whanganui Marist today and tomorrow in the winners’ semifinal at Queen Elizabeth Park Oval, but the pitch had been under covers since Sunday when the Wairarapa-Whanganui Furlong Cup match was washed out.

The covers were removed on Thursday from the sodden block to prevent damage from it being covered for too long, and the game will now be played on the Hadlow School artificial pitch.

Burger King Red Star’s clash with Whanganui United, scheduled for Victoria Park, Whanganui has been transferred to an artificial pitch in the River City.

Although not ideal, especially for two-day games, at least cricket will be played. But the likelihood is there could still be delays because of slippery pitches and wet outfields.

The Hadlow artificial pitch could play into the hands of the strong United batting line-up. Although the makeup of the side is unknown, representative top-order batters Jared van Deventer and Jaco Vorster are coming off big scores against Whanganui in the Furlong Cup.

Captain van Deventer scored a gutsy 54 in difficult batting conditions, and Vorster hit a brilliant 110.

All-rounder Gus Borren also scored a belligerent 46 in Wairarapa’s total of 343, 15-year-old Wairarapa College student Samuel Payne is fresh from scoring four centuries in five College Sport Wellington Premier Three games. Wicketkeeper Andrew Taylor and fringe representative batter John McKenzie are capable of big scores.

Medium pacers Gurdev Singh, Borren, and Vorster are likely to shoulder much of the bowling, with veterans Sanjay Patel and Robbie Speers proving the slow bowling options.

Red Star are without four of their representative players for their losers’ semifinal with Whanganui United.

Top-order batters Robbie and Jeremy Anderson, wicketkeeper-batter Paddy Gluck, and all-rounder Sean Wakelin, who has moved to Wellington, are unavailable.

Mark Steventon will play his first two-day game for Red Star.

Their absence is offset with the inclusion of talented 18-year-old Mark Steventon, who has been in good form with the bat for Wairarapa College, scoring three centuries, including a career best 250 retired, for the school in the last month.

Former All Black Zac Guildford will also make his senior debut for the club.

With the ball, much of the responsibility will fall on captain and medium-fast bowler Stefan Hook, and veteran Pete Sigvertsen, whose accurate medium-slow is difficult to get away, especially if in overcast conditions.

All-rounder Jake Jonas and Steventon will provide the seam bowling backup, while Ojas Patel is the only spin bowler.

Hook is treating the game as an ideal opportunity to draw a line in the sand and kickstart Red Star’s season after disappointing performances in the T20 series, where they won only one game and suffered a narrow loss to United [Wairarapa] in the rain-affected two-day clash.

On the representative scene, Post Office Hotel Wairarapa’s Furlong Cup match has been moved again.

The game, which was deferred in November because of the covid-19 outbreak, was rescheduled to January 8-9, but with no accommodation available in New Plymouth that weekend, it will now be played on January 22-23.

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