The first Hawke Cup challenge match of the 2021/22 summer got underway on a breezy late January Friday at a parched Nelson Park, with holder Hawke's Bay looking for their second consecutive defence against Zone 2 challenger and great traditional Furlong Cup rival, Manawatu - both sides studded with current or former Central Stags.
TOSS: Hawke's Bay who elected to bowl
DAY 1 stumps: Manawatu 184/6 (97 overs)
Day 2 stumps: Hawke's Bay 61/0 (42 overs; Manawatu 290)
Day 3 stumps: Hawke's Bay 292/3
HAWKE'S BAY defended the Hawke Cup with a win on the first innings and will now face a Challenge from the Zone 1 challenger in a fortnight's time at Nelson Park, Napier
Hawke's Bay captain Angus Schaw won the toss and bowled in Napier, facing the first Challenge of the season from Manawatu - who had already edged and deposed Hawke's Bay for the Furlong Cup bragging rights this summer in the Hawke Cup's central Zone 2, albeit with Hawke's Bay suffering a couple of luckless washouts.
After a 50-run opening stand from first-class duo Bevan Small and Ma'ara Ave, Hawke's Bay chipped out two wickets in the morning session with the visitors going to lunch at 83/2.
Tall left-hander Mason Hughes, fresh off his Central Stags debut in the Dream11 Super Smash, had made his way to 38 at the break and, despite the nagging line and length of Liam Dudding and Ben Stoyanoff - the two workhorses of the Bay attack, Hughes eventually picked off his 50 with a boundary off Dudding that simultaneously brought up the Manawatu hundred in the 42nd over.
By now Hughes was batting with CD young gun Curtis Heaphy, who would put in a good stint for 37, facing 140 balls before falling shortly before stumps.
Manawatu number seven Brynn Cleaver, brother of Central Stags keeper-batsman Dane Cleaver, patiently guided his side through to the end of play and will resume Day Two on 19* with Tim Richards, Manawatu heading in at 184/6.
Stoyanoff and Schaw both bowled 22 overs in the day with Schaw (2-27) and Will Clark (2-18) each picking up two wickets.
On a dirt road, the trajectory of the match was always going to be one of a long, hot first innings grind, an arm wrestle for the crucial runs lead on the first innings.
Brynn Cleaver dug in for Manawatu, taking the challengers past 200 on the board and then to his own half century, shortly before lunch. With the depth of talent in the host's side, Manawatu knew they needed every run they could muster, while trying to wear down their opponents' legs in the field.
Cleaver and Ray Toole added a 51-run stand for the eighth wicket as before he was finally caught off Liam Dudding for a 242-minute top score of 60.
Toole added 34, the useful tailender batting for more than two hours himself before Hawke's Bay captain Angus Schaw had had enough.
Schaw (above) had earlier taken care of Manawatu skipper Tim Richards, and now he spun out the last two wickets to complete a five-wicket bag, in his 44th over of toil: 5-47.
It stopped Manawatu's clock on 290 right before tea, and by stumps the Bay was 61 without loss in reply.
Wickets were always going to be hard to come by for Manawatu in the conditions, and Hawke's Bay was too strong to let this one go.
With contributions from all its top five batsmen and a chain of partnerships, Hawke's Bay batted steadily towards their target - to a first innings lead over their opponent in order to shake hands and retain the Cup.
Central Stags Bayley Wiggins (82*) and Christian Leopard (46*) finished unbeaten after solid early accumulation from Jono Whitley, Brad Schmulian and Will Clark.
At 251/3 by tea, the formalities were completed in the last session, a second consecutive defence for the Bay during this tenure.
CHALLENGE MATCHES 2021/22
28-30 January 2022 | Hawke Cup Zone 2 Challenge : Hawkes Bay defended the Hawke Cup v Manawatu at Nelson Park, Napier)
11-13 February 2022 | Hawke Cup Holder Hawke's Bay v Zone 1 Challenger, Bay of Plenty at Nelson Park, Napier
25-27 February 2022 | Hawke Cup Holder v Zone 3 Challenger, Canterbury Country (venue tbc)
11-13 March 2022 | Hawke Cup Holder v Zone 4 Challenger (venue, teams tbc)