Valley in no mood to go soft on Celtic
Criterion Hotel Wairau Valley generated some early momentum in Marlborough senior cricket's SBS Bank McQueen Cup two-day championship with a 144-run demolition of an understrength Biddy Kates Celtic in round two action at Horton Park on Saturday.
While defending champs Celtic are still awaiting the return of at least half a dozen of their senior squad from university, Valley still had to do the business, and they did it in comprehensive fashion.
Winning the toss was about the only positive for Celtic skipper Ben McLennan all day as he sent Valley into bat in blustery conditions and they went about posting 248-4 on the No 2 ground before declaring after 48 of a maximum 60 overs.
Chasing 249 for victory with such a thin batting line-up was always going to be a tough task for Celtic and it proved just that as they were bundled out for 99 in the 27th over.
Next door on the No 1 ground, Grove Tavern Wairau kickstarted their title chase with a comfortable five-wicket win over Guthrie Bowron Renwick.
Wairau captain Nick d'Auvergne sent Renwick in after winning the toss and it took only 39.4 overs for that decision to be justified as Renwick succumbed for just 122. Young Renwick left-arm spinner Ricky Bovey took four wickets in a highly impressive performance, but it could not prevent Wairau from cruising to victory one ball shy of 50 overs.
An opening partnership of 48 between Matt McCormick and skipper Tim Abrahams got Valley off to the ideal start, McCormick making Celtic pay for a dropped chance early in his run-a-ball innings of 36.
That brought new English import Richard Hagan to the crease for his first outing in Marlborough senior cricket and the talented teenager wasted no time in displaying his capabilities. Hitting particularly well down the ground and showing he is not afraid to go aerial, left-hander Hagan dominated a 74-run second wicket with his captain before Abrahams (35) was McLennan's second scalp at 122-2.
Hagan was cleaned-up by McLennan for 52 just 13 runs later, but the father-son duo of Greg, who was dropped second ball at slip, and Matt Stretch maintained Valley's momentum by adding 58 for the fourth wicket. The loss of Matt Stretch (18) at 193-4 did not phase his father and from there Greg Stretch set about pushing his side towards 250. With the support of No 6 Duncan Grigg (11 n.o), Stretch reached 80 not out, including seven fours and two sixes, when Abrahams decided they had enough to defend.
At 34-1 in the ninth over after Andy Fitzpatrick dispatched Mark Gear deep over square-leg for six, things were not looking too bad for Celtic. However, Gear responded by removing Fitzpatrick (18) caught behind just two balls later and from there it was all downhill for the defending champs.
Simon Muir removed Celtic's key man Chris Gibb (9) at 40-3, then set about leading his side to victory. Bowling his gentle medium-pacers and generating a healthy amount of in-swing, Muir trundled up into the stiff breeze for nine straight overs and eventually finished with the superb figures of 5-18. At the other end, Hagan completed a fine all-round debut by taking 3-36 from 6.1 overs of medium-pace, including collecting the winning wicket when he skittled No 11 John Porter.
Top performances from opening bowlers Chris Pope and Ben Stark, who bagged eight wickets between them, and steady knocks from Fraser McIntosh and Colin Wood were the key to victory for Wairau.
Forming a tricky right/left-arm duo, Pope and Stark bowled superbly early on and soon had Renwick in tatters at 27-5.
Despite wickets falling at the other end, English opener George Marshall continued to battle away and when he and his brother Richard joined forces they gave their side's innings crucial stability. They took Renwick to 85-5 in the 31st over, until d'Auvergne made the breakthrough by trapping Richard Marshall in front for 20.
After compiling a hard-fought 67, George Marshall went in the same fashion to Wairau's other highly experienced spinner, Greg Logan, 10 runs later, a wicket that signalled the beginning of the end for Renwick.
Stark came back into the attack and quickly knocked the tail over, not only ending the innings, but also completing the senior season's first five-wicket bag (5-22).
Although he did not take as many wickets as Stark, Pope bowled with genuine pace and put in one of his best performances in senior cricket, collecting 3-17 from 10.
Wairau lost opener Mike Hood for 13, but a patient 57-run second wicket partnership between McIntosh and Wood brought them within sniffing distance of victory.
Wood (31) was Ricky Bovey's first victim at 72-2 and after accounting for Stark (5), the left-arm tweaker removed McIntosh for a disciplined 46. No 6 Regan Chambers was Bovey's fourth victim at 107-5, but by then Wairau were almost home and senior debutant Tarin Mason and Marty Vercoe calmly steered their side home.
Along with snaring four wickets, Bovey proved extremely difficult to get away and finished with the outstanding figures of 4-15 from 13 testing overs.
- The Marlborough Express
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