Easts beat Hutt for Pearce Cup

Relieved Eastern Suburbs skipper Lance Dry declared it the tightest Pearce Cup final he had played in.

Hutt District opposite Kieran Lennon was "bitterly disappointed".

For the neutral observer it was an anti-climactic way for Wellington club cricket's showpiece to end, as bad light halted play at 4.30pm yesterday after an absorbing day three of see-sawing action at the Basin Reserve.

Easts were 178-8 in their second innings when umpires Garth Stirrat and Aaron Hardie lifted the bails, 28 runs shy of the victory target of 206.

As top qualifiers the draw left Easts clutching a remarkable 12th Pearce Cup in 13 years, while gutted Hutt players lingered by the pitch praying in vain for the sun to break through.

No 10 Dry was at the crease and had scored one run from 35 balls, in support of Jeremy Dean who was unbeaten on 45.

"No," was Dry's answer when asked if he would have liked to play on. "A win of any sort is a win so that's just the way it went. It was pretty dark so we came off. It was probably 50-50 in that situation, they needed two wickets, we needed 20 runs. But we'll take it, absolutely."

Easts had started heavy favourites but Hutt put up a brave fight, posting 222 and 200 in their two innings while Easts notched 217 in their first bat.

Easts were cruising at 114-3 in their second innings push for victory before offspinner BJ Barnett triggered a collapse of four wickets for two runs.

"We thought we'd bat better than we did but they put a lot of pressure on and at times we cracked under it," Dry said.

"We had two bad collapses in both innings but we managed to recover. This would have been the tightest final, considering we were a long way behind with only two wickets in hand. But it's great to win."

The victory completed an Easts clean sweep this season, having already secured the Twenty20 and one- day titles, to go with the Cook Shield.

The ever-competitive Dry had no plans to retire at age 38 and Easts will dust themselves off from celebrations and board a plane for the club nationals in Auckland today.

Lennon was contemplating what might have been. The Hutt captain can hold his head high as the game's outstanding batsman, posting a double of 66 and 61 from No 7.

He was gracious about the umpires' decision but had a couple of gentle suggestions for Cricket Wellington.

"Possibly starting play earlier, with daylight savings, and light meters would be good too," Lennon said.

"Bitterly disappointed but I think the umpires got it right. The umpires can't be blamed, it's their job and they were pretty consistent, to be honest."

Hutt were far from despondent, having reached both the Twenty20 and Pearce Cup finals just a year after battling in the Hazlett Trophy.

"We've come a long way from where we were eight months ago and I'm really proud of the guys. Everyone's coming back next year and we're coming for Easts again. I think we got under Easts a little bit. The way we went at them and they went at us - it's a great way to play cricket."

The Dominion Post