How teams line up to start season
It may be later than usual, but the Marlborough senior club cricket season begins tomorrow when round one of the SBS Bank two-day championship is played at Horton Park.
Although the final will this season be played over two days, the McQueen Cup round-robin will again be contested under the 110-over English rules format, with the title decider the last match before the Christmas/New Year break on December 21-22.
As well as being the start of the senior club season, tomorrow is the start of Grove Tavern Wairau's defence of the two-day title they lifted by beating Criterion Hotel Wairau Valley in last year's final. Wairau begin this year's campaign with a match against Guthrie Bowron Renwick on the No 2 ground, and the defending champs will have plenty of competition for the silverware.
Off-spinner Nick d'Auvergne and veteran batsman Colin Wood are easily the two most experienced full-time members of the squad. Rep team quick bowler Chris Pope and all-rounder Regan Chambers bring a healthy amount of senior experience, but otherwise the Wairau squad has a young look to it. Opening batsman Fraser McIntosh and left-arm seamer Nick Weaver are both in the senior rep side, while Tarin Mason, Ma'ara Ave and Harrison Boyce complete the teenage contingent. It will be the first full-time senior season for talented wicketkeeper-batsman Ave and Boyce.
A number of older heads are expected to fill the gaps for Wairau at various stages throughout the season. Former rep batsman Marty Vercoe will miss the first few matches, but is likely to play, while Mike Hood may be seen in the second half of the season. Captain d'Auvergne expected players like Vaughan Harris, Geoff Barnett, Leon MacDonald and Greg Logan to play a part at some point.
There is no overseas player for Renwick this season, with English brothers George and Richard Marshall not returning. Again led by Mike Bown, they will be looking to young rep squad members Rikki and Corey Bovey and George Kenny to realise their potential. Bown, off-spinners Ed Gilhooly and Paddy Dawkins and seamer Grant Herd provide the experience, with Leatham and Piers Landon-Lane and Ben Weaver completing the squad.
Young all-rounder Braden Stewart is expected to return from injury after the Christmas/New Year break, while opening bowler Hayden Harris will play tomorrow's match before heading overseas.
Runners-up last season, Valley face Biddy Kates Celtic on the No 1 ground tomorrow in what shapes as an interesting clash.
Valley have retained the core of their side, with rep players in skipper Tim Abrahams, Greg and Matthew Stretch and Sam Boyce all returning. Promising teen Leo Adendorff and fellow all-rounder Matt McCormick are also back, while university students Blake Parata and Rohan Prasad and Englishman Grant Goodwin should be available towards the end of November. The bad news is the loss of young English import Richard Hagen and the fact opening bowler Mark Gear and all-rounder Simon Muir are only expected to play a very limited part.
Two-day champions in the 2011-12 season, Celtic have also retained most of their key players, and will again be led by Ben McLennan. Rep seamers McLennan and Ben Blackman will front the bowling attack, while top-order rep players Josh Poole and Andy Fitzpatrick shape as the central figures in their batting lineup. Gareth Weaver, Landon Neal, Elliot Robinson and Tom Argyle are other returnees, with wicketkeeper Darcy Hooper-Smith a new inclusion from North Otago.
Members of Celtic's second grade team last season, spinners Grant Dunn and Jack Porter, and exciting Indian batsman Raj Singh, have all been named in the senior squad. The possible return of former leading rep player Jerrym Lamb and Karl Fitzpatrick around Christmas time would strengthen their squad for the second half of the season.
Also starting before Christmas is the T20 competition, which will feature five teams after the inclusion of second Wairau side the Cavaliers. Round one of that competition is on Friday, November 29, with the final set down for February 7. The absence of the Kelvin Scoble Trophy combined competition with Nelson means there can be two full rounds of the Marlborough one-day competition. That starts on January 25, with the final concluding the season on March 22.
Tomorrow's matches are set to start at 11.30am.
The Marlborough Express