HOLDER Southland v ZONE 3 Challenger Nelson
15-17 February 2019
Queen's Park, Invercargill
RESULT: Match drawn. Nelson lifted the Hawke Cup with a 36-run win on the first innings
After having been sent in on the first morning at Queen’s Park, Zone 3 Challenger Nelson finished the day with a platform of 199 for four - but not before Southland fought their way back with the ball in the last session.
With all but Greg Hay in the Nelson side playing at Queen’s Park for the first time, young opening batsman Thomas Zohrab had carried his bat through blustery conditions to be unbeaten on 88*, having faced 255 deliveries during the day.
After the loss off his twin brother David in the second over, Zohrab had helped Nelson recover from 0/1 with captain Hay who spent almost three and a half hours steadying the ship with him.
The pair was each on the cusp of a half century by lunch, with James Ng’s third-ball wicket the only dismissal of the dogged session.
From 97 for one, Nelson pushed on to 177 for three by tea with the pair accruing 134 for the second wicket, but the big wicket of Hay, caught on 72, would be the first of three on the opening day for legspinner Jack Mockford.
Flighting the ball well, Mockford (3-27) dealt another big blow soon after by claiming another first-class representative in Willem Ludick. Zohrab meanwhile had been the consummate anchorman and by tea had reached 75*, now with Paddy Howes in the middle. He remained unbeaten on 88* when rain cut short the final session at 80 overs.
After overnight wet weather, a ground delay saw day two proceedings delayed until after lunch but, once play finally resumed, overnight batsman Thomas Zohrab achieved his maiden Hawke Cup century off 266 balls (325 mins, 13 x 4).
Zohrab formed a useful fifth-wicket stand with Nic Clark, the pair adding 61 before a further brief stoppage for rain. The break seemed to hasten Clark’s wicket soon after, while Zohrab trucked on through a further 10 overs before his doughty stint was ended on 122 (304 balls, 16 fours), after six and a half hours at the crease.
Again it was Jack Mockford with the spoils. The dismissal put him in line for a five-wicket bag, but it also put a spring in the step of his teammates who closed in on the remaining order. Jason Domigan, who had claimed Clark, came back and ripped through the tail to finish with 4-73, Mockford left with 4-42 off his 20 overs.
Nelson’s first dig had been stopped on 297, with cup holders Southland beginning their reply immediately after tea. It started with a setback, Jared McKenzie dismissed in the first over by Ben Stark.
Stark, opening with Sam Baxendine, struck again at the end of his third over: suddenly Southland was 20/2.
Southland opener James Ng held firm, however, and launched a recovery with captain Shaun Fitzgibbon for the third wicket. They had taken the score through to 79 in the last session before spinner Felix Murray came into the attack in the 21st over and struck with his fifth delivery, Fitzgibbon trapped on 20.
Southland finished the day trailing by 189 runs but still with seven wickets in hand and opener James Ng requiring just another two runs for his half century heading into day three at 108/3.
Again a ground delay served to keep everyone on tenterhooks as the delicately poised match headed into a tense final day. Nelson needed seven wickets and Southland 190 further runs in a match destined to be decided on the first innings.
Southland opener James Ng was still there and gave the holders hope, alongside experienced former Volt Ryan Duffy.
However, Southland lost Ryan Duffy when he was trapped on 25 by young Nelson Central Stag Willem Ludick, then Hamish Skelt suffered a duck when he was trapped by another young Stag in spinner Felix Murray. It put Southland in peril at 129 for five.
Amarpreet Singh and anchorman Ng knuckled down and steadied the ship with a potentially match-saving sixth wicket partnership.
Singh reached 78 from 84 balls as the pair put on and 113 run partnership and at lunch the tension could still be cut with a knife on both sides of the table, Southland 232 for five needing another 65 runs.
However Sam Baxendine had Singh caught by captain Greg Hay first over after the break, and from there the holders were in trouble, Baxendine collecting the number nine and 10 batsmen for no score while Murray had taken care of Jason Domigan as Hay finally got his hands on the coveted Cup.