NZCT National Club Cricket Championship 2019
Cornwall Cricket Club, Auckland
2-7 April 2019
St Albans defeated Napier Technical Old Boys by 27 runs
With three sides unbeaten after two rounds, this was the first match that pitted two of those undefeated clubs against each other in the race for Finals day seedings.
In the end, it was the Saints who went marching in again after closing out a gritty win over defending champs the Texans.
St Albans won the toss and batted on the small number three ground, the big question being whether the two sides could top yesterday’s tally of 38 sixes in the Greerton-Green Island clash on the same deck. But the round three battle would be a much more chaste, tense affair, despite some big names in the Napier Tech side who were more than capable of clearing a big boundary — let alone a small one.
The Texans had experienced paceman Stevie Smidt (below) join them for the first time and he opened their attack with captain Liam Rukuwai — who bowled all his 10 overs unchanged, for 54 runs. The Saints’ opening pair of Dan Sharples and Greg Dawson got off to a solid start, however, chalking up their 100-run partnership in the 14th over.
Rukuwai did a good job of keeping things relatively tight while NZ U19 youngster Todd Watson came on at first change — and finally got the breakthrough by trapping Sharples on 53.
Sharples had raced to his half century a couple of overs earlier off just 31 balls (2x4, 5x6), and after breaking through at 106 for one, Watson struck again in his next over, bowling Dawson just after he’d reached his own half century.
Watson then picked up Tyler Lortan in his sixth over to have St Albans 139/3 in the 21st, completing his first spell with 3-37 off seven. Bronson Meehan entered the attack to make it 149/4 in the 25th, Robbie Polson back in the tent cheaply.
Meehan soon had a brace, but Ben Langrope and Jack Harper would each produce a hand of 42 runs, with nine sixes pummelled between them to get St Albans chugging again. They were to prove crucial runs as the Texans kept picking off wickets.
Kieran Noema-Barnett finally removed Harper in the 42nd over and with another quick wicket each to Noema-Barnett (Jesse Ryder showing his juggling skills in the catch to dismiss Matt Holstein, below) and Watson, the Texans had done well to bowl out the Saints for 290, with four overs left untouched.
In reply, the opening combo of Matt Edmondson and Christian Leopard (below) made a typically aggressive start, Edmondson slamming a couple of early sixes in his 12-ball 20 before Bailen Thatcher bowled him at 60 for one.
It was just the fifth over, but Leopard had got off to a flier and would be on the cusp of a fast 50 before Thatcher stopped him short after a 23-ball 47. Thatcher had also already accounted for dangerous first drop Izaiah Lange who was trapped for a two-ball duck.
Now, at 80 for three in the ninth, the Saints' attack would have to start dealing with the heavyweights in the line-up, starting with ex-County player and Stags veteran Noema-Barnett. Noema-Barnett casually slapped his first ball for four through the covers, but he would not add to his tally after Jack Harper struck a massive blow back next over.
Harper then added Bronson Meehan’s wicket to his column in his following over to have the Texans teetering at 88 for five.
In the meantime, Jesse Ryder had made his way to the middle for his first bat of the 2019 tournament, and he was now joined by Watson.
The pair set about steadying the bright red ship with a 73-run stand for the sixth wicket in the space of 10 overs, but the Saints weren't releasing much pressure with the ball.
There was plenty of time left in the match to pick off the runs, but Watson’s loss in just the 22nd over — controversially run out by Sharples on 35 — was another big setback as the Texans found themselves dipping into their lower middle order for the first time all tournament.
Morton Freer now joined Ryder at 161 for six, but St Albans soon had more cause for another loud celebration as Holstein bowled the big, clean hitter for a run-a-ball 45.
The Saints were right back in it, and brought back opener James Tapper (below) to attack the lower order.
Freer and Smidt both fought back with suitably cautious 37s, but Tapper eventually had both their wickets to have St Albans sniffing victory.
Getting another 35 runs on a small ground was still not an impossible task. However, with one wicket in hand the odds were against the Texans and, when captain Rukuwai was run out in the 47th over, they found themselves a painful 27 short. After a good job with the ball, ironically it was their batting on the small ground that had cost them the big match.
10am | Friday, 5 April 2019
Napier Technical Old Boys v Parnell on Number One
St Albans v Green Island on Number Two
Greerton v Eastern Suburbs on Number Three
All matches are free admission and live-scored from 10am at nzc.nz