Valley, Celtic seal spot for final

CLAY WILSON
Last updated 15:52 16/12/2013

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Criterion Hotel Wairau Valley and Biddy Kates Celtic will meet in this weekend's Marlborough senior club cricket two-day championship final after both were victorious in sixth and final round action at Horton Park in Blenheim on Saturday.

Valley were already guaranteed of their place in the title decider and sealed pole position with a 32-run win over Guthrie Bowron Renwick on the No 1 ground. There was much more on the line on the No 3 ground in the match between Celtic and Grove Tavern Wairau, with the second spot in the final up for grabs. Celtic posted a modest 168 batting first, but it proved enough as defending champions Wairau were all out for 146 to see them overtaken by Celtic in the overall standings.

The final points tally saw Valley well clear on 106, ahead of Celtic (78), Wairau (70) and Renwick (43).

With few visible demons in the pitch and five more points available for a win batting first, Celtic skipper Ben McLennan had no hesitation in putting Wairau into the field after winning the toss. However, when they were all out in just 41.4 overs and had set a target of just 169, Wairau were in the box seat.

Celtic openers Ben Blackman and Raj Singh put on 29 for the first wicket, but fell in quick succession and when left-arm quick Nick Weaver snared the key scalp of leading rep batsman Josh Poole for just two, the innings was wobbling at 55-3. No 3 Landon Neal remained, though, and a 47-run partnership with wicketkeeper Darcy Hooper-Smith for the fifth wicket was to prove critical.

Neal was eventually removed by young off-spinner Joel Burns for 41 from 60, including seven fours, at 120-5 and from there Celtic stumbled to their meagre total. Hooper-Smith battled 72 balls and hit four boundaries before he was ninth man out, skittled by Weaver for an important 32 run contribution.

Weaver was the chief destroyer for Wairau, deservedly finishing with the impressive figures of 5-33 from 13 overs. Skipper and off-spinner Nick d'Auvergne opened the bowling alongside Weaver, taking four of the other five wickets to fall.

Wairau lost d'Auvergne with 11 on the board, but Fraser McIntosh and veteran batsman Colin Wood made the most of being dropped early in their innings to further strengthen their side's grip on the contest. The pair added 62 as Wairau went to 73-1, but Wood was always the key wicket for Celtic and when he hit a full toss from leg-spinner Neal straight to Elliot Robinson at mid-on to be out for a typically patient 39, the innings soon unravelled.

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Talented young No 4 Ma'ara Ave was dismissed cheaply by left-arm spinner Poole just 12 runs later and McIntosh (31) was caught behind of McLennan soon after, allowing Poole to steadily run through the inexperienced lower order and seal his side's spot in the final. He claimed the last four wickets and finished with the superb figures of 6-19 from 10 overs, while opening duo McLennan and Blackman and part-timer Mitchell Croft provided valuable support by keeping the Wairau batsman tied down.

Valley skipper Tim Abrahams believes, on paper, Celtic are favourites for the final, but his side have a golden opportunity to break their title drought after yet another victory.

Although he lost the toss, Abrahams was pleased to be sent in by young Renwick counterpart Rikki Bovey and that largely proved correct as the Valley top order all played their part. Makeshift opener Sam Boyce made a patient 29 and opening partner Blake Parata 21, the pair putting on 44 for the first wicket.

Abrahams and Boyce then added 55, the Valley captain playing himself in before upping the ante and beginning to find the boundary. He hit eight fours and one six and faced 64 balls for his 60 and when he departed, after hitting spinner Bovey straight to deep square leg, his team were well-placed at 131-3.

Father-son duo Greg and Matthew Stretch kept that momentum going with a steady 49-run stand, but when Greg also fell to Bovey for 31 that triggered a collapse. Matthew was removed in the next over for 27 from 77, while Leo Adendorff, Reuben Kepes and Rohan Prasad all went in quick fashion as Valley fell to 187-8.

An unbeaten 18-run partnership between Steve Boyce and Michael Dillon got them past 200, but Abrahams felt they were 50 short of where they should have been. Bovey led the way with 4-56 from 16 overs, seamer Leatham Landon-Lane claiming a three-for.

Left-arm seamer Adendorff got two early Renwick wickets, but the key dismissal came when Sam Boyce bowled Bovey for just seven at 29-3. Young Piers Landon-Lane and George Kenny steadied the ship for 10 overs, but when Abrahams trapped Kenny in front for 43 the Renwick task became difficult at 98-5. It was not quite over, though, Corey Bovey and Josh Tautari keeping their side in it with a 41-run seventh wicket stand. However, Boyce knocked over Tautari for a rapid 27 and just six overs later completed the job for Valley by doing the same to remove Bovey for a 56-ball 34. Boyce was once again outstanding with the ball, claiming three crucial wickets and returning the tidy figures of 3-28 from 10.2 overs. Adendorff, Abrahams and spinner Prasad all bagged a brace, the later also taking a brilliant catch on the boundary to dismiss Corey Rawlings.

- The Marlborough Express

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