Manawatu win and lose Hawke Cup over two days
A solemn Manawatu team could only blame their batting for letting the Hawke Cup slip away from their eager tentacles at Mt Maunganui yesterday.
On Saturday evening they had the vital first-innings lead in the bag, usually enough to wrest the cup from Bay of Plenty.
They would have been eyeing up the first defence at Manawaroa Park against Canterbury Country in two weeks' time.
But as the sun set yesterday, BOP had run down the target of 208 off 37 overs, or 5.6 runs an over, to somehow beat Manawatu outright with 2.3 overs to spare.
If only Manawatu had had captain Luke Murray or Jamie How, who were both unavailable, the top-order batting would have been shored up.
But stand-in captain David Meiring claimed the men who were picked, heavy with allrounders, had been capable.
"The guys in the team were the ones who could do the job," he said.
"At the end of the day we didn't score enough runs, apart from Brynn Cleaver and Bevan Small who showed us how to do it. There were no real demons in the pitch."
Cleaver's 128 runs in a stay of more than five hours on the Friday had been pivotal to the match.
Afterwards, Meiring had to also attend a prizegiving where BOP did a "re-presentation" of the trophy.
Manawatu did bat for 79.4 overs in their second innings to score 188.
"We just had to go that little bit further. Another 10 to 15 overs and they would have had no chance."
It was just as nerve-racking for fans at home watching the live scoring on the NZ Cricket website.
"We're pretty disappointed but that's the way cricket goes sometimes. We've had a good season, this was our first loss and we've got a young team."
Manawatu did excel on Saturday evening when BOP had been within sight of their first innings score of 275 after adding a mere eight runs from their overnight score of 267-8. Manawatu snatched three quick wickets to dismiss BOP for 256 and send their players into depression.
The Manawatu bowlers had stuck to it, kept bowling straight, even if Small couldn't bowl at the end after injuring a knee. Tim Richards was rewarded when he skittled BOP's key batsman, Brett Hampton, when he was on 89.
"We'd done really well to get the first innings and were disappointed to end up losing," Meiring said.
At tea on Saturday, BOP had been only six wickets down for 210 and needed only 76 runs for the first-innings lead.
The BOP supporters would have felt they were almost home, only for another wicket to fall and with it the tenor of the match kept changing.
Dane Cleaver was back in the wars, suffering a suspected cracked rib when he dived for a ball and landed on the boundary rope. Small couldn't bowl in the second innings and that didn't help.
But he had done his bit with his 67 in 195 minutes in the first innings and his 39 in 154 minutes in the second dig.