Another century from skipper Dave Meiring ensured Manawatu will keep the Hawke Cup for the winter and completed their "perfect season".
Manawatu won their Hawke Cup defence against Southland outright by three wickets at Fitzherbert Park yesterday, but despite dominating for 2 days, Manawatu got the jitters chasing 139 to win and scraped home.
Stand-in captain Meiring scored 167 in Manawatu's first innings total of 334, and 71 in the second innings to keep Manawatu unbeaten this summer.
"We've played eight games, had six outright wins, a rain-off and a first-innings win," Meiring said. "It's as close as you can get to a perfect season."
Manawatu's only losses this summer came in the Chapple Cup one-day final against Hawke's Bay and a Tararua Shield game they lost to Wellington City.
But they won all their Hawke Cup matches and the Tararua Shield one-day competition.
"A lot of people have stepped up," Meiring said. "We've had 12 honours-board performances and I can't remember a season like that."
On his way to 167, Meiring chalked up 1000 runs for the season. It was his ninth hundred for Manawatu overall and his fourth this summer, as well as one for Marist and one for Central Districts A.
Meiring was happy with his good form, having put in a lot of hard work, including training by himself, but was unsure where he figured in CD selection.
"I really enjoy playing cricket for Manawatu, that comes first . . . if I get picked for CD, great."
His 167 off 207 balls in a five-hour stay at the crease, included 24 fours and his century came from just 138 balls.
It also got Manawatu out of trouble on day two when they resumed on 31 for 3 and were still 209 runs behind.
Meiring liked to think they still would have got the job done if usual captain Luke Murray, who couldn't get work off on Friday, had played instead of coach Mike Mason.
Mason's inclusion paid off on Friday where he took six wickets to dismiss Southland for 240, then contributed with the bat, scoring 40 in a crucial partnership of 105 with Meiring and helped get them the first-innings lead.
Navin Patel added 62 down the order as Manawatu scored 344, while opening Southland bowler Craig Smith took 5 for 97 with a blown hamstring.
In Southland's second turn at bat, they scored 242 and set Manawatu just 139 to win.
Manawatu were cruising at 97 for 2 with Meiring and Jason McGregor at the crease, but they collapsed and lost five wickets for 24 runs.
Manawatu could have been in even more trouble when batsman Rob Sheary, in his first game for Manawatu in five years, was dropped by Southland captain Jason Domigan at deep mid off with 21 runs still to get.
If the catch had been taken it would have been 118 for 6 with just the tail to get through, but a fired-up Sheary hit 28 from 27 balls to finish things off.
Manawatu player-coach Mason had no nerves at the finish and never thought they were going to lose.
He said everyone has stood up with either bat or ball in what has been a busy season.
"We are a champion team and a champion team finds ways to win . . . this season has been really amazing and it will be tough to ever beat a season like this again."
Southland coach Steve Jackson said it was an intense battle and the momentum kept changing from one team to the other.
"It's great to have come so close, but it's obviously disappointing," he said.
"It will certainly make the boys understand exactly what they've got to do to take that next step and they're not far off it."
The dropped catch was hard to stomach, but Jackson paid tribute to how well Meiring batted in both innings, saying it was the difference between the two sides.
- Manawatu Standard