Wairau grab control and the cup

Grove Tavern Wairau extended Criterion Hotel Wairau Valley's 13-year wait for a Marlborough senior cricket two-day title on Saturday when they collected an 86-run victory in the SBS Bank McQueen Cup final at Horton Park.

In the end, Wairau's first two-day championship win since the 2009-10 season was a comfortable one. However, the momentum swung back and forth between the two sides throughout a see-sawing English rules contest and it was not until the latter stages that Wairau firmly grabbed control and put the result beyond doubt.

Thanks to crucial knocks from Colin Wood, who made a typically dogged 80, and Regan Chambers, who belted a rapid half-century, Wairau made 215-8 on a flat No 1 wicket before declaring after 54 overs. Following the loss of three early wickets, Valley were well and truly in the hunt at 83-3 after 28 of their 56 overs. But, the pressure of chasing in a final proved too much and a probing second spell from Chris Pope not only snared three key scalps, including Valley top-scorer Blake Parata (57), it also netted the young quickie a five-wicket haul and from there Valley fell over to be all out for just 129.

The day started poorly for Wairau. Just 15 minutes before the toss, veteran spinner Greg Logan reaggravated a knee injury and was ruled out, then with just three runs on the board opener Marty Vercoe was given out, caught behind trying to hook Mark Gear, a decision the former rep player appeared none too happy with.

Fraser McIntosh and Wood steadily got things back on track. But, when McIntosh (16) uncharacteristically pulled one straight to the man in the deep and rep youngster Josh Clarkson (7) fell to a brilliant low return catch from English import Richard Hagen, Valley were on top at 51-3. That saw rep all-rounder Ben Stark join Wood at the crease and slowly but surely they turned the wheel in their side's favour.

Stark mixed patience with aggression and, despite playing and missing on numerous occasions, Wood showed all his vast experience under pressure to keep the scoreboard ticking over. The pair added 72 vital runs for the fourth wicket, Stark (39) holing out off Rohan Prasad trying to hit the Valley spinner for a second maximum over long-on.

Logan's replacement Mike Hood (9) and Charlie Lewis (1) then fell to Prasad in quick succession and at 140-6 Valley were back on top. Cue a game-changing contribution from Chambers. With Wood past 50, his fourth of this competition, and happy to watch at the non-strikers end, the always aggressive No 8 clubbed five fours and three clean sixes, taking just 29 balls to reach his half-century. Greg Stretch held a tidy catch on the long-on fence to remove him next ball, but the damage was done and Wairau had a defendable total. They batted just one more over before declaring, Wood unable to get what would have been a fully-deserved not out when he was Prasad's fourth victim in the 54th and final over of the innings.

Needing a touch under four an over to win their first two-day title since the 1998-99 season, Valley's chase did not start well.

Skipper Tim Abrahams (2) was the first to go with just seven on the board, caught behind off Pope, although he looked equally displeased as Vercoe was at seeing the raised finger.

Vercoe held a sharp low catch off Stark at first slip to get rid of Matt McCormick (2) and when Pope trapped Greg Stretch (1) in front, Valley were in trouble at 18-3.

Just as Stark and Wood did for Wairau, opener Parata and Hagen steadily rebuilt the Valley reply. Just when they had put their side back in the ascendancy, though, Hagen (22) hit d'Auvergne to cover and the 65-run fourth-wicket stand was over.

Usually a dasher, Parata maintained a cool head, while still punishing anything loose, and went past 50 soon after. He and Matthew Stretch took Valley past 100 as the match continued to hang in the balance. However, once again, just when they looked to be getting their noses back in front, Wairau struck.

Returning for his second spell, Pope nicked out Stretch (16) to a loose shot and from there the innings disintegrated.

Key man Parata's 98-ball stay was ended just three runs later when he was skittled by Pope, and when Mark Gear was lbw the very next ball, the Valley dream was all but over at 111-7. No 7 Grant Goodwin (7) dug in for a few more overs, but Stark and d'Auvergne did not take long to finish the job Pope started, Wairau securing the title when No 11 Prasad top-edged a simple catch to Pope at mid-wicket.

Victorious captain d'Auvergne said they always felt 200 was enough batting first and lauded vital knocks from Wood and Chambers.

"We knew we had to grind out that 150 and from there we just needed one person to kick. The partnership with Woody and Starky was a turning point and then Regan's knock was the icing on the cake and allowed us to declare early.

"[Woody] doesn't over-hit anything, he just hit gaps and scores truckloads of twos. He knows his game and he keeps it pretty tight and to have guys around him like Starky and Reg to take the pressure off him was key.

"[Regan] has bided his time in the senior team for three seasons, but today he took his opportunity and I was rapt for him. The way he plays, it doesn't always come off, but I thought he was pretty selective with what he went at and it was a great knock."

Valley skipper Abrahams agreed Wood and Chambers played key roles and felt his side's bad start with the bat and lack of support for Parata proved costly.

"Regan's innings put a total which probably should have been around 170 to 215 and Woody just showed everyone how to score runs in pressure situations, my hat goes off to him.

"We actually thought it was a pretty generous declaration on that wicket . . . being three for not much did not help. Blake batted really well, really maturely, but he didn't get any real support. If we had got another guy over the line with 50 or 60-odd, it could have been a different story."


Two-day final scoreboard Criterion Hotel Wairau Valley v Grove Tavern Wairau

WAIRAU F McIntosh c R Prasad b Z Harrison-Jones 16 M Vercoe c M Stretch b M Gear 0 C Wood c Z Harrison-Jones b R Prasad 80 J Clarkson c&b R Hagen 7 B Stark c Z Harrison-Jones b R Prasad 39 M Hood b R Prasad 9 C Lewis c G Goodwin b R Prasad 1 R Chambers c G Stretch b L Adendorff 50 N d'Auvergne not out 3 C Pope not out 0 Extras (2b, 8lb) 10 Total (for 8 wkts, 54 overs) 215 declared Fall: 3, 38, 51, 123, 134, 140, 212, 212. Bowling: M Gear 14-1-68-1, L Adendorff 10-2-47-1, R Hagen 10-3-25-1, Z Harrison-Jones 8-2-21-1, R Prasad 12-1-44-4.

WAIRAU VALLEY T Abrahams c C Wood b C Pope 2 B Parata b C Pope 57 M McCormick c M Vercoe b B Stark 2 G Stretch lbw b C Pope 1 R Hagen c R Chambers b N d'Auvergne 22 M Stretch c C Wood b C Pope 16 G Goodwin c N d'Auvergne b B Stark 7 M Gear lbw b C Pope 0 L Adendorff not out 4 Z Harrison-Jones lbw b N d'Auvergne 2 R Prasad c C Pope b B Stark 5 Extras (3nb, 5b, 3lb) 11 Total (all out, 38.4 overs) 129 Fall: 7, 14, 18, 83, 108, 111, 111, 121, 124, 129. Bowling: B Stark 10.4-2-31-3, C Pope 11-1-36-5, N d'Auvergne 13-1-38-2, N Weaver 4-0-16-0. Result: Outright win to Wairau.

The Marlborough Express