Celtic romp home in series decider

CLAY WILSON
Last updated 11:18 11/02/2013

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The all-round talents of Biddy Kates Celtic's Greg Knowles took centre stage at Horton Park on Friday night as he produced a man-of-the-match performance to lead his side to victory in the final of Marlborough cricket's Mitre 10 Mega senior Twenty20 competition.

Knowles was the competition's leading run-scorer going into the title decider against Criterion Hotel Wairau Valley. The free-flowing left-hander plundered 92 from just 50 balls as Celtic chased down their target of 154 for the loss of just two wickets and with more than five overs to spare.

His innings included seven fours and six towering sixes, the final maximum sealing the silverware. It also saw Knowles finish the T20 portion of the Marlborough senior season with 222 runs from five innings, at an average of 55.5 and a strike-rate of 164.

As if his powerful and entertaining innings was not enough, right-arm seamer Knowles was also a key contributor as Celtic restricted Valley to 153-7 on a flat No 1 surface. He claimed two wickets and conceded just 24 runs from his four overs, as well as pouching a sharp catch at cover.

Earlier, Valley got off to a strong start after being sent in by Celtic skipper Ben McLennan. Rep opener Tim Abrahams found the boundary with regularity and shared in a brisk opening stand of 49 with Blake Parata before Abrahams holed out at long-on for 39, off 22 balls, from the final ball of the fifth over bowled by Ben Blackman.

That allowed Celtic to start applying the brakes and Blackman added the wickets of Richard Hagen and Blake Parata to make Valley 67-3. When Valley skipper Matthew Stretch tried to drive a ball from left-arm spinner Sean Neal that was not quite there and Knowles held a smart catch, the momentum had well and truly moved in Celtic's direction at 69-4.

That brought Greg Stretch to the crease to join Matt McCormick and together they went about getting the innings going again. Ones and twos were more prominent, but the pair were still able to find the odd boundary and 15 runs off Josh Poole in the 13th over took Valley to 107-4.

McCormick swung Neal high over long-on from the first ball of the 14th over as the mood in the Valley camp continued to brighten. But, just when it looked like they had regained control, Neal got his fingertips under a hard, low return catch to bring McCormick's 15-ball knock of 23 to an end.

Four dot balls finished the over and in the final six overs the Celtic bowlers limited the damage superbly. They allowed just two more boundaries, that pressure enabling Knowles to dismiss Stretch (35), Valley's last recognised batsman, at 138-6. The 13 balls yielded just 15 runs and going into the second innings the momentum was very much in Celtic's favour.

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Defending 153 against a deep Celtic batting unit was always going to be tough and when the first ball of the chase, bowled by Mark Gear, went flying through gully off Neal's bat for four, the signs were not good for Valley. Neal hit two more boundaries before falling to Sam Boyce at 18-1, but that was almost the only hiccup for Celtic on their way to victory.

Conversely, it was not to be a bowling and fielding performance to remember for Valley. In the fourth over, with Celtic at 26-1, their chance to get rid of dangerman Knowles came. However, Hagen was unable to hold on to a high one-handed opportunity at backward point and Knowles needed no second invitation to cash in.

He hit Gear for two sixes in the following over and from then on the ball spent a lot of its time flying to and over the rope.

Matthew Stretch's gamble to replace Boyce with the slow mediums of Greg Stretch, instead of a seemingly stronger bowler like Hagen, cost 28 runs from two overs, while spinner Rohan Prasad bowled two overs for 21. By the time Hagen was introduced into the attack in the 10th over, Celtic were already 95-1 with Knowles and Chris Gibb firmly set and continuing to tee off.

Knowles hit Hagen's second ball for six to bring up three figures and as Gibb joined in the fun, the final 50 runs came in just five overs. Abrahams removed Gibb for a 25-ball 39, including four fours and two sixes, at 126-2, but it was a minor hindrance for Celtic.

Knowles and Poole took the 14th over for 13, leaving just 10 required. It was Knowles who sealed the deal in style, slamming Abrahams for two sixes from the first two balls of the 15th over to leave him just eight shy of a century.

SCOREBOARD

Biddy Kates Celtic v Criterion Hotel Wairau Valley

WAIRAU VALLEY T Abrahams c S Neal b B Blackman 39 B Parata lbw b B Blackman 14 R Hagen c B McLennan b B Blackman 5 M Stretch c G Knowles b S Neal 4 M McCormick c S Neal b S Neal 23 G Stretch b G Knowles 35 D Grigg c B McLennan b G Knowles 14 M Gear not out 7 R Prasad not out 0 Extras (3w, 1nb, 8lb) 12 Total (for 7 wkts, 20 overs) 153

Fall: 49, 54, 67, 69, 113, 138, 149.

Bowling: G Knowles 4-0-24-2, B McLennan 4-0-32-0, B Blackman 3-0-26-3, G Hegglun 3-0-10-0, S Neal 4-0-32-2, J Poole 2-0-21-0.

CELTIC S Neal c T Abrahams b S Boyce 12 G Knowles not out 92 C Gibb c M Gear b T Abrahams 39 J Poole not out 4 Extras (1w, 6nb, 2lb) 9 Total (for 2 wkts, 14.2 overs) 156 Fall: 18, 126. Bowling: M Gear 3-0-32-0, S Boyce 2-0-13-1, G Stretch 2-0-28-0, R Prasad 2-0-21-0, R Hagen 3-0-36-0, T Abrahams 2.2-0-24-1.

Result: Win to Celtic by 8 wickets. 

- The Marlborough Express

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