2022/23 • GRAND FINAL
CENTRAL STAGS defeated CANTERBURY by 6 wickets
McLean Park, Napier
28 March 2023
Jayden Lennox: career best bowling
Josh Clarkson: Third List A century
Josh Clarkson: Career best score 111 not out
Tom Bruce, Josh Clarkson: Central Stags fifth-wicket record partnership v Canterbury (167*)
All images: PHOTOSPORT
Just a fortnight after he had smashed his damaging maiden first-class century against them, Canterbury felt the brunt of Josh Clarkson's clean hitting power again in New Zealand's men's one-day title decider for 2022/23: The Ford Trophy Grand Final.
The last NZC white-ball final of the summer saw the Stags looking to break a growing title drought across all formats for a few seasons, and with a chance to make up for their flat finale when they lost last summer's trophy showdown to the Auckland Aces.
They headed in as top qualifier again while Canterbury had aced the Elimination Final against the Otago Volts to make it to McLean Park - a match that had been delayed, relocated and rescheduled after February's Cyclone Gabrielle.
Canterbury captain Cole McConchie won the toss and elected to bat on a sunny morning, while home skipper Tom Bruce had been keen to bowl. Everyone happy.
Impressive in the Plunket Shield, Canterbury brought in Rhys Mariu on Ford Trophy and List A debut, both teams missing a handful of key performers through either injury, concussion (top Ford Trophy wicket-taker Brett Randell) or BLACKCAPS duties at the tail of the season.
Canterbury would start and finish their innings well, but it was the reverse bell curve through the middle of their innings that cost them dearly.
Mariu got his team and his List A career underway with a boundary in the first over, and he and Mitch Hay (44) found the fence regularly in an attractive stand before Doug Bracewell made the first breakthrough with Mariu bowled at 35/1.
Hay would be one of the few batters on the day to adjust quickly to the pace of the wicket, and he got going again with Leo Carter in a short-lived second-wicket partnership before Ajaz Patel had Carter caught.
The runs were still flowing regularly enough for Canterbury not to ring the alarm bells, but there was a sea change in the 22nd over when Patel's fellow left-arm spinner, Jayden Lennox, entered the home attack in a double change with Josh Clarkson.
The pair was a deadly combo, squeezing the life out of Canterbury for the next 15 killer overs. Clarkson (3/40) began his spell in spectacular fashion with a wicket first ball, a wicket maiden over - dangerman Hay wrenchingly dismissed after his promising 44.
Lennox conceded just 15 runs and picked up the wicket of Matt Boyle (playing against his brother Jack) during his eight overs through the middle of the innings, whilst Clarkson claimed another dangerman in Cam Fletcher cheaply in a seven-over stint that included two wicket maidens for Lennox at a cost 18 runs.
After their return later in the innings, both would finish with three-fors, Lennox (3/27) beating his previous List A best of 3/30.
Calm, canny McConchie had meanwhile toughed out the tricky period, reaching his half century and remaining a threat to the hosts until the 46th over when he holed out off Lennox for the top score of 54.
He'd recombined with Angus McKenzie in a 61-run stand for the sixth wicket, which would prove Canterbury's best - and that would ultimately not prove enough.
The lower order grappled for late runs and got some handy edges for four to boot, but the tempo of the innings would stubbornly not lift, and they could be satisfied only by denying the Stags their final wicket.
Canterbury reached 212/9 in their 50 overs, and there was a hunch or two that it was too light: the Stags would need 4.26 per over in response.
Canterbury made a searing start, opening the attack with with Ed Nuttall and Sean Davey the latter fresh off his spectacular 7-for and 11-wicket match haul with the red ball in Rangiora.
It was a cautious and slow start from the Stags, and they lost veteran Ben Smith at 10/1 to Davey in the fourth. Fellow opener Jack Boyle, playing against his old team, was gone at 28/2, and Davey had two.
Dot balls abounded until a chastening 17th over for the hosts that saw Brad Schmulian and Dane Cleaver walk back in, both falling to Will O'Rourke at 49/4.
Jack Boyle was playing his younger brother in the match | PHOTOSPORT
The Stags were in trouble, and yet it would be the last wickets to fall as captain Tom Bruce was joined by 26-year-old giant Josh Clarkson who took care of the outstanding 167-run balance.
Bruce was the patient partner of the two, while Clarkson was a man in serious form. Striking the ball cleanly, the shot that brought up his half century - off just 36 balls - put McKenzie over the roof of the Lowe Stand and out of the ground.
He hit eight boundaries in his first 50 as well, reaching the milestone long before Bruce who looked to play the anchor role for his team, just in case a long fight was required.
As the chase reached the 30-over mark, the Stags had gathered pace to overtake their opponents at a similar stage, after having started well behind the eight ball.
Clarkson reached his third one-day century to a thunder of applause from the local gathering in the grandstands who had been treated to a special performance. He got there off just 70 balls, in just 95 minutes with 17 boundaries and the humungous six.
He would strike another over the rope as the pair entered the home straight, Bruce (51 not out off 84 balls) hitting the winning boundary in just the 44th over to finally lift another trophy.
Their unbeaten partnership had set a new record for the Stags in one-dayers against Canterbury for the fifth wicket, and Clarkson couldn't stop smiling as he returned to the dugout with an unbeaten 111* off just 78 balls.
With his captain's support, he had just won the big game for his team, against one of their biggest rivals.