2019 Hallyburton Johnstone Shield GRAND FINAL
Central Hinds defeated the Auckland Hearts by 39 runs
Pukekura Park, New Plymouth
Saturday 9 March 2019
The day after torrential rain finally doused a long, dry summer, the Central Hinds came up with their own droughtbreaker by lifting the historic Hallyburton Johnstone Shield for the first time in nine seasons.
Defeating defending champions the Auckland Hearts by 39 runs at New Plymouth's Pukekura Park, top qualifiers the Hinds won their first national title since 2009/10 the hard way... by defending a score of 200 all out, after having been sent in by the well respected Hearts, a side that had won this trophy three times in the last four years.
The hosts bowled out the Hearts for 161 with three overs in hand to see the prized piece of wood change hands.
It was the usual suspects to the fore after a remarkable one-day summer from the Hinds, while the Hearts — the other standout one-day team of 2018/19 in a fascinating final — refused to go down without a fight, despite a nightmare start to their chase.
The last time the Central Hinds had won a national title, head coach Jamie Watkins' wife, former WHITE FERNS captain Aimee Watkins (née Mason), was captain of the side and in the intervening years, they had not so much as made a Final in the women’s domestic format, until this season when they went in as the surprise top qualifier. Consider that in this summer’s Burger King Super Smash, they had not won a game.
The Grand Final match featured two stunning one-handed catches from the well drilled Hearts, and a gutsy fightback with the bat of 56 from Hearts allround standout Holly Huddleston, who batted at number six. Seventeen-year-old Hearts medium pacer Skye Bowden also provided a bright spot for the gutted visitors with a haul of 4-37 in her first Grand Final.
Huddleston (above) combined with another richly experienced player in Arlene Kelly as they attempted to give their side a chance following the dramatic start to the chase that saw WHITE FERNS pace bowler Hannah Rowe (3-26) claim three huge wickets inside the first six overs: an all-WHITE FERNS trio of Lauren Down, captain Maddy Green and the vastly experienced Katie Perkins sent back in quick succession.
Earlier, Hinds captain Anlo van Deventer top-scored for the Hinds with a cautious 60, having formed a crucial 90-run second-wicket stand with star opening batsman Natalie Dodd, before the hosts’ innings fell away.
The most remarkable feat of the day, however, was surely that of the grounds staff and weather gods after the previous day’s soaking had left the outfield sodden. A bright sun and helpful breeze appeared at dawn, steam rose off the ground, and the super-soppers did the rest: the match was delayed only by 45 minutes, and no overs lost.
It was the way both teams wanted to settle their scores, the Hinds out to prove to all that their results in the campaign were no fluke. When Aimee Watkins’ rampant side had lifted the one-day trophy in 2010, it had been by virtue of qualifying top for a completely rained-off Final — not as satisfying, and she was at the ground with her children to see it done on the park this time.
Dodd’s calm and experience with the bat was key for Central, but she also arguably had a hand in one of the biggest wickets by stumping Huddleston, off spinner Jess Watkin, to all but extinguish the Hearts’ last hopes of chasing down a lowish total on a ground perfectly proportioned for the women's game.
Dodd finished as the country's top run-scorer for the season with 652 runs from 11 innings, which was also a Central Hinds record for most runs in a one-day season. It was Dodd's first summer with the Hinds after having previously represented Northern Spirit, for whom she also holds the record for must runs in a season — but this represented a significant return to her best form, after several years.
“I keep my eye on stats, but it’s not what drives me”, said a delighted Dodd afterwards. “I just love scoring runs and enjoying my cricket. It’s a really exciting win for the Central Hinds after the work that they have put into their young ones, and you could see that coming for a long time.
"I think that started with [the late former coach] Mike Shrimpton, he’d always have them in the nets working really hard. That exciting group of girls is coming through now and [current Head Coach] Jamie Watkins has carried it on. We’re not a team of superstars — everyone has just stepped up and done their job.”
Dodd, 26, said beating a strong side like the Hearts in a Final would give the young players tremendous confidence moving forward into next summer.
“The Hearts are always tough, a very well drilled side and never make anything easy. They have a solid batting line-up, solid attack and outstanding fielders as we saw today… so we are really stoked, that we could win by that margin when it counted.”
Remarkably it was the first time 26-year-old Dodd had lifted a national trophy in her lengthy career, stretching back a dozen seasons. “It feels very good! I’m stoked for the girls and think it confirms the move to the green worked for me, too. It gave me more energy coming into a new environment, new people, a new way of doing things. I’m really enjoying my cricket. I was really desperate to contribute and be a valuable member of the side.”
HALLYBURTON JOHNSTONE SHIELD GRAND FINAL - HOW IT HAPPENED
- Few captains would have done anything else but bowl first after a rain-drenched outfield delayed proceedings, and Hearts captain Maddy Green was thrilled to win the toss.
- Hinds opening batsman Jess Watkin raced out of the blocks but on 20 found herself caught behind after trying to slash Huddleston.
- Enter the two senior pros of the batting line-up this summer, captain Anlo van Deventer (below) and Natalie Dodd combining for a steady, watchful 90-run partnership that reached the 30th over.
- The Hearts built good pressure, however. Boundaries dried up, Anna Peterson and Arlene Kelly proving hard to get away.
- Green put herself on to bowl and, in her second over, got the breakthrough. A shot skied to long off, and Huddleston took the catch to deny Dodd a half century.
- Then Kerry Tomlinson was out for 14, run out in a horrible misunderstanding with her captain that had her racing from the non-striker’s into no woman’s land. The Hinds were now 141/3.
- Skye Bowden made a key breakthrough in the 38th over when van Deventer (above) came down the wicket, missed, and lost the top of middle stump.
- Four balls later, Bowden (below) had her second. Katie Perkins took a stunning one-handed mid-air catch to remove the dangerous striker Rowe. The Hearts were hauling themselves back into the contest!
- Bowden was back in the action next over, a yorker that ripped out young Emily Cunningham’s middle stump. Suddenly the Hinds looked in trouble at 161 for 6.
- They proceeded cautiously, Rosemary Mair trying to rally the tail until she was out on 16, another terrific flying catch — this time taken by Lauren Down.
- Huddleston wrapped up the Hinds' innings for exactly 200, a score the Hearts would have been very pleased with given the lengthy second-wicket stand, and dearth of wickets, until that point.
- Early wickets weren’t a problem for the Hinds. Down was trapped first ball by Rowe.
- Green lasted four balls before she went out without scoring, caught off Mikaela Greig. The Hinds brought themselves right back into the fight in the space of six overs, Rowe sitting on 3-4 off her first 2.4 overs, including a maiden.
- Things went from bad to worse for the Hearts at 12 for four after six overs, a runout costing them last weekend’s heroine Saachi Shahri.
- Anna Peterson watched all this from the other end as she lost partners, until the determined Huddleston, one of the season's leading wicket-takers but no slouch with the bat, joined her. Together the pair steadied the ship, putting together a 50-run partnership that looked solid until Peterson skied a ball from Melissa Hansen and Georgia Atkinson held on.
- The Hearts started rebuilding all over again, Huddleston and Arlene Kelly getting the Hearts past the hundred mark before Kelly was caught for 21 off Greig.
- Despite the score teetering at 113/6, there a whiff of hope for the under-pressure defending champions so long as Huddleston was at the crease. She played some crunching fours, raising her bat for a well deserved half century.
- However, when she looked to up the run-rate against spinner Watkin — there was little choice, with the required run rate climbing — she was stumped by Dodd on 52.
- In the last 10 overs, the fightback was left to the Hearts' young guns: Bella Armstrong at 8, Tariel Lamb at 9, and Bowden at 10. They couldn’t beat back a surging Hinds team who sniffed a long awaited title, the Hearts all out 39 runs short and three overs left in the innings when one of the season's standouts, Rosemary Mair (above) took the final wicket and the hometown rejoicing began.
- The droughtbreaker was the perfect celebration of 125 years of cricket in Taranaki, with a gathering of jubilee celebrants having enjoyed the show from the Bellringer Pavilion, and not a cloud in the sky.