Sheffield Shield cricket might be back from the BBL break, but a host of first-choice players from both Tasmania and New South Wales will be missing when the two sides take to Blundstone Arena on Wednesday.
The Tigers will be without captain George Bailey, opener Ed Cowan and important bowlers Jackson Bird, Xavier Doherty and James Faulkner due to international duties, but stand-in skipper Tim Paine remains confident in his side's ability to get the job done in what looms as a vital contest against fellow finals aspirants.
Paine will have strike bowler Ben Hilfenhaus back at his disposal after injury ended the burly paceman's Test summer, while talented batting duo Jon Wells and Mark Cosgrove look likely to slot back into the Tigers' top order and Andrew Fekete may be given a Shield debut for his adopted state.
In-form captain Steven O'Keefe will miss for New South Wales due to split webbing, leaving the reins with Ben Rohrer, while Shane Watson, Steve Smith and Moises Henriques have been spirited away for higher honours – Watson with the national ODI side and the pair of young all-rounders destined for India to prepare for the forthcoming Test series.
But despite the absences, both states will be out to prove the depth of talent in their squads and the Blues have covered their losses by calling Nic Maddinson, Josh Hazlewood and Tim Cruickshank to the squad.
Doug Bollinger will return to Hobart after his BBL campaign for the Hurricanes and alongside Hazlewood and Trent Copeland makes up a strong pace attack for the visitors.
Only a point separates the teams on the Shield table and the prospect of a top two finish will be significantly boosted by an outright result in Hobart.
A rain-interrupted final day put paid to New South Wales' push for outright points in their recent clash with the Warriors, a match they seemed poised to win until conditions meant only 10 overs were possible on day four at Blacktown.
The Tigers haven't played four-day cricket since dismantling the Warriors in Hobart late in November and will be fielding a significantly different line-up this week, but one that still boasts the class of Ricky Ponting, Paine and underrated all-rounder Luke Butterworth.
The Blundstone Arena deck is not expected to contain the demons that saw a spate of three-day matches before the Christmas break, but some assistance for bowlers may still be expected on the first morning.