NZCT National Club Cricket Championship 2019
Cornwall Cricket Club, Auckland
3 v 4 FINAL
Eastern Suburbs defeated Green Island by 59 runs
A 99, 6-fa and 5-fa all in one match. Two competitive teams who had won this tournament in the past and had everything to play for found themselves squaring off for the bronze medal this time around at Club champs.
Wellington's Eastern Suburbs had won the trophy back-to-back, before Napier Technical Old Boys repeated that feat this year; but their campaign was hampered by early losses in the opening rounds.
Green Island was meanwhile keen to add to its tournament record collection of five titles to give retiring stalwarts Dion Lobb (below) and Ant Harris a perfect farewell. Remarkably seamer Lobb had played in all five of the club's trophy-winning campaigns through the years.
Unlike Easts, the team from Dunedin had made a solid start, with two wins on the bounce, but followed up with two losses against Easts and eventual finalists St Albans to leave their 1v2 Final hopes hanging by a thread. When the fifth round was then washed out, they found themselves coming back for a shot at the bronze at best.
The match reduced to 49 overs, Easts captain Lance Dry elected to bat first on a brilliantly fine Finals day on the number two ground, but it was a chaotic affair with only three batsmen reaching double figures. Remarkably, among them was a 99 from number five Jimad Khan, who just needed someone to hang on at the other end.
Khan (above) hit his 99 off just 71 balls, blasting away with his seven boundaries and nine sixes to keep his team from being trounced on a tough surface.
The problem for Easts was Blair Soper (below).
The former Otago Volts paceman was on fire. He struck first over and then was swiftly joined in the wickets column by Christi Viljoen to have the Wellingtonians five for two.
Then Soper got the big wicket of Jamie Gibson, caught behind for a duck: 8/3.
Then he bowled Luke Georgeson in the ninth over for good measure.
Wellington Firebirds keeper-batsman Lauchie Johns was next, bowled for just seven off Soper's following over to give the Green Island strikeman a five-for. He wasn't finished. With his next set of six, Soper took out Ili Tugaga (below), finishing with 6-31 off his nine overs. Would anybody else like a turn?
Dion Lobb and Mark Joyce put their hand up to mop up, bowling out Easts for 162 in just the 28th over. But remarkably Khan had held on to the very end, and it was a shame that he was the last to fall, caught off Joyce (2-25), whilst just one run short of his century.
Green Island should have fancied their chances of chasing down 163 with an ocean of time, but they imploded at the top and a middle order fightback did not last long enough.
Easts veteran Paul Connell (above) was meanwhile having a great time, having claimed all the top three batsmen to have the Swamprats three down for four runs in the fifth over.
Gregor Croudis (20) and Geordie Scott (32, above) launched a fightback with a 40-run stand for the fourth wicket, but Connell eventually got both of them caught behind to have Green Island 61 for five in the 15th.
Wicketkeeper Jeremy Dean was well on his way to five catches in the innings while Connell would finish with 5-32 off his 10 overs. Green Island simply petered out, giving Easts something to smile about at the end of a long week as they settled for third place with a 59-run win completed with 21.8 overs to spare.
FINAL STANDINGS for 2019
1. Napier Tech Old Boys (Central Districts)
2. St Albans (Canterbury)
3. Eastern Suburbs (Wellington)
4. Green Island (Otago)
5. Parnell (Auckland)
6. Greerton (Northern Districts)