TIMING is everything in cricket - just ask Ulladulla wicketkeeper Matthew Gilkes.
The South Coast native is on the verge of playing in this week's Sheffield Shield final against Queensland as NSW chase their first domestic double since 2002-03, and he couldn't have plotted his run to the decider any better.
Gilkes was drafted in for incumbent keeper Peter Nevill earlier this month, who pulled out of his NSW commitments for the rest of the season awaiting the arrival of his second child.
He managed two knocks of 66 in the final-round draw against Queensland and continued building on his fledgling keeper-spinner partnership with Australian star Nathan Lyon.
And he's poised to play in the final at Allan Border Field, unless Nevill's child arrives early and the veteran keeper makes it to Brisbane in time.
"I only came into the Shield team last game as well so I've timed it pretty well actually," Gilkes said.
"It's a great bunch of guys and we're all really keen to get out there."
Gilkes moved to Canberra from Ulladulla aged 16 and played two-and-a-half seasons for Wests in the Cricket ACT competition before relocating to Sydney.
It's the same club Lyon captained for many years in Canberra before advancing through the ranks to become a 100-Test player for Australia.
"I've known Nath for a few years now, we have a little bit of a bond [over the Wests connection]," Gilkes said.
"He's a quality player, he's a bit tougher to keep to than most players I've kept to, it's a good challenge.
"He's just got a lot of subtle variations. He gets some to just skid on and then some to just bite a bit extra.
"The big thing with him is the pace that he bowls, and then he still gets so much bounce. You've got to watch the ball quite hard with him, it's tough work."
It's not the only bit of tough work that comes with being part of a NSW Shield side.
He's been tuning up in the nets against some of Australia's most fearsome quick bowlers in Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
"It's a bit daunting sometimes they always feel a bit faster in the nets too," Gilkes said.
"It's as good a training as you can get, it's awesome to be able to go into the nets and come up against guys like that who are such quality players."
Should he play, Gilkes will go toe-to-toe with several Sydney Thunder teammates, including Usman Khawaja and in-form quick Brendan Doggett.
Test star Marnus Labuschagne, who scored a century in the last Shield game of the regular season against NSW, will also be lining up.
As will crafty spin bowler Mitchell Swepson, and ex-Test opener Matt Renshaw.
"I've got to know a few of them from over the years, they're a good bunch of guys," Gilkes said.
"We'll have to be at our best to get the win."