Stark bowls over 118-year-old record

Got the lot: Marlborough cricketer Ben Stark holds the scoresheet detailing his record-breaking exploits in Greymouth
Got the lot: Marlborough cricketer Ben Stark holds the scoresheet detailing his record-breaking exploits in Greymouth

For most sportspeople, that magical day where you can't put a foot wrong and everything falls into place is something they search for their entire life.

For Marlborough cricketer Ben Stark, Saturday was undoubtedly one of those days.

When he and his Marlborough senior rep side team-mates turned up at Greymouth's Arthur Fong Park for their zone three Hawke Cup match against West Coast, Stark was a promising member of the team with just two rep caps and four wickets to his name.

By lunchtime he had written himself into Marlborough cricket history, achieving something so rare it had not been done in the 150 years the Marlborough team has been in existence.

A member of the Wairau club, first-change bowler Stark claimed all 10 wickets to fall as West Coast were all out for just 65 batting first. From 10.4 action-packed overs of left-arm swing bowling, he finished with the remarkable figures of 10-24.

Not only had he just become the first player to take all 10 wickets in an innings for Marlborough, he had broken an 118-year-old record held by F Blizzard, who bagged 9-26 against Nelson on Christmas Day 1894.

Thanks largely to a free-flowing and unbeaten century from Josh Poole, Marlborough then posted 211-5 before declaring and re-inserting the home side. West Coast succumbed for just 44 in their second innings, confirming a resounding outright win for the visitors.

Marlborough skipper and off-spinner Nick d'Auvergne had the outstanding figures of 8-11 in that second innings, incidentally putting him third on the all-time list, and on any other day he would have joined Poole in taking centre stage. But in the end there was no doubt what everyone was still talking about.

Speaking after the match, Stark, who added two wickets in the second innings to finish with match figures of 12-33, was still coming to terms with what he had done that morning.

"It feels a bit weird at the moment. I don't think it's quite sunk in yet.

"I came on in about the eighth over and things just started to happen.

"Every shot that went in the air seemed to go to a fielder and some bad balls got some bad wickets. It was just one of those funny days when everything just fell into place . . . I can't really put my finger on one thing.

"To be honest, I don't actually think I bowled particularly well, but it obviously got the job done."

Getting the ball to swing back in, for a right-hander, and keeping it full in length, Stark was gradually able to pick his way through the West Coast order.

However, in typically modest fashion, he reckoned a lot of the credit for his astounding figures could be taken by his fellow Marlborough bowlers.

"Knowlesy [Greg Knowles] bowled really well and I probably owe most of my wickets to him, he had them jumping all over the place. He peppered them with some sort stuff and ruffled them up, then I came in and I think they relaxed a little bit. [Opening bowlers] Ben McLennan and Chris Pope, I think they were just too fast and bowled too good a line and length for anyone to get near it."

A handful of five-wicket bags in club cricket were his previous best performances and he said it was not until the seventh wicket the possibility of reaching the milestone came up. "When it got to about seven the lads started throwing around the idea of all 10. I did start to think about it. It was in the back of my mind, but I just tried to take it ball-by-ball. When they were nine down one of their batters hit one to Stretchy [Greg Stretch] at mid-off, he had a clear shy at the stumps and I think he missed on purpose. The 10th one was interesting because it took a few overs to come.

"Knowlesy and I were at either end and there was probably four overs where the last two hung in there and I wasn't sure if I was going to pick it up.

"I finally got it with an in-swinger and bowled him.

"It didn't sink in right then, I was kind of just celebrating another wicket, but I guess I knew I had just done something a little special."

Once the initial on-field celebrations were complete, the West Coast team lined up and shook Stark's hand as he was clapped from the field.

Unsurprisingly, it did not take long for his phone to start buzzing and he said it wasn't until he fielded calls from his parents, Dave and Jenny, and several club cricketers back in Blenheim that what he had done began to hit home.

"It's pretty special when you think about all the great bowlers Marlborough has had.

"To get my name up there amongst them is amazing."


All-time best bowling figures for Marlborough in an innings

1: Ben Stark, 10-24 v West Coast, December 8, 2012.

2: F Blizzard, 9-26 v Nelson, December 25, 1894.

3: Nick d'Auvergne, 8-11 v West Coast, December 8, 2012.

4: Lin Sparks, 8-26 v Motueka, 1970.

5:Fen Cresswell, 8-28 v Nelson Country, 1951.

6: Fen Cresswell, 8-44 v Nelson, 1949.

7: Fen Cresswell, 8-46 v Nelson, 1949.

8: John Nelson, 8-68 v Manawatu, 2002.

The Marlborough Express