Player of the Final Christian Leopard celebrates with Player of the Tournament Izaiah Lange. MButcher/NZC

Christian Leopard on fire as Texans rope in the trophy



1v2 Final, 15 April 2018

Onslow (Wellington) v Napier Tech Old Boys' (CD)  


For just the third time in the history of New Zealand’s NZCT National Club Cricket Championship, it was CD’s representative that hoisted the final national trophy of the season.

Unbeaten Napier Tech Old Boys captain Liam Rukuwai did the honours after his well drilled team swept aside Wellington’s competitive Onslow with a sharp seven-wicket win.

National champions. Image courtesy of Napier Tech Cricket facebook

Rukuwai and his teammates owed a toast to the groundsmen, and the weather gods, after the entire morning had been lost to wet weather, heavy rain having fallen overnight. It was 2.40pm before the match got underway, putting the reduced 23-over match on a collision course with autumn’s late afternoon gloom.

But they wouldn’t take that long.

Onslow won the toss and batted, a decision the Wellingtonians may have come to regret despite a positive and galloping start from both openers Andrew Fletcher and Tim Robinson with the bat.

At 39 without loss after just 5.2 overs, things were looking bright for Onslow — who would have claimed the championship title on superior net run rate had the two unbeaten teams not been able to get on.

After Stevie Smidt (above) broke the opening stand for the Hawke’s Bay lads, young Central Stags allrounder Christian Leopard took a wrecking ball to the Onslow middle order, starting with a huge wicket first ball — that of Wellington Firebird Malcolm Nofal, whom he bowled.

Lively Leopard would add another wicket in each of his next two overs (both return grabs), finishing his five-over spell with an outstanding return of 3-8 and a maiden.

Jayden Lennox, Indika Senarathne (2-19), Robbie Brigham and Smidt (2-27) all swung in behind to keep the pressure on with regular wickets, Onslow’s number 10 Jack Sargentina the only other batsman outside the openers permitted to reach double figures.

The tally was helped along by a rash of extras at the death, but the bowlers had already done the damage, and ultimately contained their foe to just 108, captain Rukuwai claiming the final wicket with the last ball of the innings.

Needing fewer than five an over to take out the championship, the Texans didn’t have it all their own way as Wellington Firebird Alex Ridley made two snappy strikes — including the Texans’ young batting hero of the tournament, Izaiah Lange, caught for just nine.

Opener Indie Senarathne had gone cheaply, too, however his opening partner Leopard was on fire for the big game as they cruised to the low target.

Man of the Match Leopard belted five sixes (the last two for the win) and just one four as he carried his bat for an unbeaten 60 off just 55 balls, smashing the winning runs in the 19th over to complete a solid seven-wicket win.

The youngsters had helped lead the way. Fellow 20-year-old Lange was named the Player of the Tournament for his batting feats as Napier Tech Old Boys broke a 15-year-long drought to claim the club’s second championship at the traditional end of season tourney, Nelson’s Wanderers who shared the title with Green Island in 2000 the only other CD team to have etched their name on the silverware.

The playoffs for the minor placings would continue on the adjacent grounds with great spirit being shown as teams battled into the dark.

Hosts Cornwall secured a tight nine-run victory over Burnside West for bronze on the number two ground while Pukekohe Metro had to settle for the wooden spoon as North East Valley finally got a win, Jimmy Neesham having slaughtered 75 off just 33 balls on the tiny number three ground (1x4, 10x6).

Ash Vodnala responded with a valiant 87 off 38 (5x4, 8x6) but a three-for from Neesham helped close out a 17-run victory to complete the 2017/18 New Zealand season.

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