2022/23 season Zone 2 Challenge Match
• Rescheduled following Cyclone Gabrielle to 10-12 November 2023
Holder CANTERBURY COUNTRY
Challenger HAWKE'S BAY
Mainpower Oval, Rangiora
10-12 November 2023
Canterbury Country and Hawke's Bay have become fairly regular rivals for the historic Hawke Cup in recent years, but when the former visited the latter a year ago, it was a one-sided victory that saw the historic 1910 silver cup swept from Hawke's Bay's grasp and spirited away to the trophy cabinet in Rangiora.
There it had remained ever since: Canterbury Country's longest tenure, with a strong and stable side.
They defended the Cup three times late last summer, and in the middle of it, they had been looking forward to a Zone 2 rematch with Hawke's Bay when the devastating Cyclone Gabrielle struck New Zealand.
The widespread trauma and disruption in Hawke's Bay made postponing the match and skipping to the next challenge a no-brainer: the Hawke's Bay players couldn't train, and were swapping bats for shovels and, along with the Central Stags, heading out to help their community clean up the mess.
Now, in the new season of 2023/24, the teams started fresh. The curiosity of the timing meant that Hawke's Bay had already got underway for the season in their internal Zone 2 competition for the official 2023/24 Hawke Cup season, having won their first round of CD's Furlong Cup that determines the Zone 2 Challenger each season.
Now, they jumped on the plane south for the "catch-up" Challenge from the previous season.
Hawke's Bay sent a stacked squad to Rangiora for the long-awaited grudge match. Toby Findlay, Jayden Lennox, Liam Dudding, Bayley Wiggins, Will Clark and Ben Stoyanoff (who ended up running the drinks) were all capped Plunket Shield players for the Central Stags, and in addition, Brett Johnson and captain Angus Schaw had played white-ball cricket for the Stags in the last 12 months.
Opening day with a Newshub crew capturing the big game at Rangiora
Canterbury Country had Harry Chamberlain, who'd scored a century in just his second Plunket Shield appearance for Canterbury; and former Canterbury unorthodox spinner Blake Coburn who was now in his first year as a retired first-class cricketer, but still turning out for his province.
What Canterbury Country's crew might have lacked in first-class clout, they made up for with experience and stability at this level, with the ilk of brothers Sam and Harry Chamberlain, another prolific top order batter in Archie Redfern, Robbie Foulkes - brother of Canterbury allrounder Zak; and Jesse Frew, whose mum Lisa Astle represented the WHITE FERNS and uncle Nathan Astle the BLACKCAPS.
When Canterbury Country captain Sam Chamberlain won the toss, he put Hawke's Bay into bat, backing his strong batting line-up when it came to chasing any target. But Hawke's Bay would get away on him.
But Jono Whitley and Bayley Foote (making his Hawke Cup debut) batted throughout the first session, and ultimately put on 80 for the opening stand, before Chamberlain himself made the first breakthrough in the 42nd over - denying Foote (44) a half ton in his first appearance for the black and whites at this level.
Hawke's Bay reveres the Hawke Cup so much that players are only awarded a baggy when they play in their first Hawke Cup Challenge match, regardless of how many other representative fixtures they have played for the team.
Photo courtesy Canterbury Country Cricket Association
By tea, Canterbury Country had got the visitors four down, with the big wickets of Bayley Wiggins and Will Clark obtained relatively cheaply. Whitley had meanwhile been stopped on 47, caught off George Gunn.
The new ball was taken at 181/5, after captain Angus Schaw had got a start. He saw it off to reach his half century by stumps, with Hawke's Bay set to enter Day Two at 226/6.
Canterbury Country would be hoping for quick early strikes the next morning to bring the innings under their control.
Last season, young pace bowler Toby Findlay made history as the first Plunket Shield representative to make his debut as a concussion replacement, as he stepped in mid-match for concussed Central Stag Brett Randell in Palmerston North.
Now he had a chance to contribute to history of another kind, and with the bat.
Findlay is a third-generation Hawke Cup player, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Harry who represented Southern Hawke's Bay in an Elimination (qualifying) match in 1975, and father Craig Findlay who played a number of Challenge Matches for Hawke's Bay in the 1990s and 2000s.
With dad in Rangiora watching, the youngest Findlay now stepped up with a remarkable knock of 75, at almost run-a-ball pace, while batting at number nine.
Toby Findlay | Photo courtesy of Hawke's Bay Cricket Association
With the experienced Todd Watson (27), he helped put on a quick 72 for the eighth wicket, and then added a further 35 for the ninth with Jayden Lennox.
Overnight batter Schaw had soon departed for 61 earlier in the morning, and would have been kicking himself while hoping that it wouldn't prove the fulcrum of the result.
Now the captain was kicking back, enjoying the show. Findlay hit 10 boundaries and two sixes as he let loose in a two-hour stint that cost Canterbury Country its hard-won gains.
The hosts finally bowled out Hawke's Bay in the middle session, captain Sam Chamberlain finishing it off himself for a haul of 4/57.
Now, his side needed to go big with the bat in response, in order to hold on to the silverware. But three late strikes from first-class off-spinner Lennox put Canterbury Country on notice ahead of the last day in Rangiora.
Eyeing their initial target of 353, Canterbury Country had been going nicely in their first dig at 88/1 with just the one wicket lost before tea. But the Hawke's Bay left-armer made the first of his three breakthroughs after the break when he removed a key man, bowling fellow first-class representative Harry Chamberlain in the 48th over.
It would be a rocky last hour for the current holders. From 88/2, Canterbury Country plummeted to 98/5 by stumps, after Lennox (3/22 off 20 overs, overnight) and fellow Central Stags representative spinner Brett Johnson (1/22 overnight) combined to take three wickets in the space of just 15 balls in the last stanzas of the evening.
Prolific opening bat Archie Redfern had remained at his post, bringing up his half century with the last run of the day, and now needed Matt Laffey to stay with him after Brayden Hill, Jesse Frew and Cameron Paul had all found their stays a short one, dismissed for one run amongst them.
Canterbury Country still trailed by 255 runs, heading into a big third morning - with the weather forecast clear.
Lennox spun into action again in the next session of the match, pushing Canterbury Country further onto the ropes. The spinner has just started on the 12th over of the morning session when he struck again - the big wicket of opener Redfern, trapped on 56.
Blake Coburn joined Matt Laffey at 110/6 as the Hawke's Bay spin contingent kept stacking up the maidens. After a burst of pace from Liam Dudding and Findlay kept the tail in order, captain Schaw brought spinners Brett Johnson and Lennox back, and again they delivered.
Johnson got a wicket with his fourth ball of the spell, Laffey caught. Lennox struck with Coburn four balls later. Togther they bowled the last 34 deliveries of the match, taking the last three wickets for a cost of only three runs. Fittingly in was Lennox who delivered the knockout punch.
On the stroke of lunch, he ended the innings with his sixth victim, the ultra-competitive bowler to be clapped off for a match-winning haul of 6/26 off his 35 tight overs.
Canterbury Country had been dismissed for just 129 in 98 overs, a first-innings deficit of 224. The match was gone. The captains shook hands. After a remarkable 12 months, the Hawke Cup was going back to Hawke's Bay.
CANTERBURY COUNTRY: Playing XI
Sam Chamberlain (c)
12th - Ryan Hughes
HAWKE'S BAY: Playing XI
Angus Schaw (c)