Celtic back in the race for title

Celtic wicket keeper Landon Neal and Renwick batter Richard Marshall.
Celtic wicket keeper Landon Neal and Renwick batter Richard Marshall.

Biddy Kates Celtic are well and truly back in the hunt to defend their title in Marlborough cricket's SBS Bank McQueen Cup senior two-day championship after a commanding eight-wicket victory over Guthrie Bowron Renwick in round four action at Horton Park on Saturday.

Two of the first three rounds were called off because of rain and in the other round Celtic suffered a big loss to Criterion Hotel Wairau Valley, leaving the 2011-12 champs languishing at the bottom of the ladder. However, with their side virtually back to full strength, they proved they are right in the running and pushed themselves back into contention with a dominant performance.

Although they lost the toss and were sent out into the field on Horton No 2, Celtic were almost immediately on the front foot. Left-armer Tim Warner and his skipper Ben McLennan made scoring tough in the early going and when first-change seamer Michael Daines nicked out in-form opener George Marshall (13) Renwick were in early trouble. Warner dismissed No 3 Richard Marshall in the next over and when George Kenny became Warner's third victim, also caught behind the wicket, Renwick were 23-4.

Sensing the need for some positivity to their innings, captain Mike Bown (26) came out and played aggressively. In partnership with young Corey Bovey, Bown took the total through to 62 before he top-edged a pull shot to gully. That positivity continued when Ricky Bovey joined his brother, Corey, at the crease, the pair coming up one run short of a 50 partnership before McLennan finally got rid of Corey Bovey for a dogged 35.

At 111-6, Renwick still had the opportunity to post a defendable total. McLennan, though, had other ideas and took a remarkable four wickets in five balls to bring the innings to a close at just 123. The Celtic captain cleaned up top-scorer Ricky Bovey (37) from the final ball of his 11th over and needed just four balls of his 12th over to take the final three Renwick wickets.

Celtic were never in danger of not chasing their modest target. Returning batsman Tom Argyle and Elliot Robinson accumulated nicely as they put 50 for the opening wicket before Argyle (22) was trapped in front by Ben Weaver. Chris Gibb fell at 63-2, but from there Robinson and rep all-rounder Josh Poole comfortably saw their side home in the 29th over.

Youngster Robinson played the anchor role well and finished unbeaten on 40, while Poole was the aggressor and hit eight boundaries and two sixes on his way to a half century.

Opening bowlers Weaver and Hayden Harris toiled away for Renwick, while young Braden Stewart bowled seven tidy overs on senior debut.

Next door on the No 1 ground, Grove Tavern Wairau went to the top of the table with a three-wicket win over arch-rivals Wairau Valley.

Wairau skipper Nick d'Auvergne opted to bowl first after winning the toss and his decision to do so on a lowish and slowish wicket was vindicated as Valley stuttered their way to 137 all out in the 52nd over. Wickets at constant intervals throughout were the killer as a strong four-pronged Wairau attack methodically went about their work.

The top five Valley batsmen are all members of this year's rep team, but thanks to opening bowlers Ben Stark and Chris Pope and veteran spinner Greg Logan, all five were back in the hut with just 80 on the board. Richard Hagan (22) and Matthew Stretch (19) both dug in and threatened to go on, but were dismissed trying to up the run rate. Stretch and English import Grant Goodwin (29) added 35 for the fifth wicket, but after Stretch was removed by Logan and Goodwin suffered the same fate at 99-8, Valley's innings was all but over. Only a fighting display from last three batsmen Mark Gear (11), Sam Boyce (15) and Zac Harrison-Jones (13 no) gave the scoreboard the mildest sense of respectability.

Left-armer Stark swung the ball nicely, while Logan displayed typically guile and both bagged three Valley scalps.

Wairau's chase was nowhere near as comfortable as they would have liked and if not for a typically patient and gritty innings from the bat of No 3 Colin Wood, things may well have been different.

Captain d'Auvergne promoted himself to open the batting, but that quickly backfired as he and Mike Hood were both gone for ducks with just two runs on the board. Firstly in combination with Stark (13) and then Marty Vercoe (18), Wood displayed his vast experience and got his side's innings back on track. By the time Vercoe fell, they were in the box seat at 83-4. Regan Chambers came out and hit a run-a-ball 24 to take Wairau within sight of victory, but there were a few late jitters.

Wood fell for a crucial 55 at 119-5 and when two more wickets fell not long after, Valley had given themselves a small glimmer of hope. But, when No 8 Nick Weaver was bowled off a no-ball with just two runs required that hope was finally extinguished and Wairau eventually got over the line.

The Marlborough Express