Guthrie Bowron Renwick found a special hero, with a special reason to succeed, as they claimed their maiden Marlborough senior cricket title at Horton Park, in Blenheim, on Thursday.
In just their third season in senior ranks, Renwick chased down Wairau Cavaliers' competitive target of 128 with an over to spare in a thrilling Twenty20 final, Corey Rawlings blasting 20 runs from five deliveries in the penultimate over to see his side home.
For the 42-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman it was an emotional occasion. On Wednesday his partner Stella Stewart had been diagnosed with breast cancer, for the second time in her life, and Rawlings asked his team-mates to dedicate the match to her. They wore pink ribbons in support of Stella as their team-mate, who finished unbeaten on 40, provided the impetus for an historic victory.
"It was pretty emotional when we first went out there," admitted Rawlings. "I had to stop my hands shaking to do my job behind the stumps. We've got a tough few months ahead of us."
After a decade away from the top club level, his match-winning efforts also eased doubts that he still has what it takes to succeed at senior cricket.
"To come back after 10 years out of senior cricket - to see if I was still capable, can I face fast bowling, can I still do it? As Stella said to me a couple of months ago, ‘you've just had 10 years out, if you leave it for another 10 years you are never going to do it, so just go for it' . . . I'm always looking to challenge myself as I get older."
Rawlings described the win as a "fantastic learning experience" for his team-mates who won their final three round-robin matches to reach the decider.
"It's been a pleasure to be involved with such a young group of up-and-coming cricketers. What they've done over the last four games is learn how to win cricket games. It doesn't come naturally to a team . . . but once you learn the formula you can manipulate yourselves to win games."
The afternoon began well for Cavaliers, who qualified top for the final. Openers Geoff Barnett and Martyn Vercoe pushed the score to 29 off four overs before the introduction of spin undid Vercoe. He was bowled trying to cut left arm spinner Rikki Bovey.
But that brought Cleighten Cornelius to the wicket and the former Canterbury player made the most of his chances, hitting strongly to both sides of the park.
Grant Herd, who bowled four economical overs straight through for Renwick, kept the run rate in check as Wairau pushed through to 64 in the 10th before Barnett departed to a superb Zac Harrison-Jones catch for a breezy 30 off 27 balls, including five fours.
Cornelius was joined by Leon MacDonald and the pair produced the biggest partnership of the match, 60 runs, to leave their side well poised to push on, entering the final over at 123-2.
But, just when Wairau needed to press the go button, MacDonald fell to the second ball of the final over for a steady 16 from 22 and Cornelius was dismissed off the very next Ben Weaver delivery, holing out at long off for a superb 67 off 55 balls, including three fours and three sixes.
Wairau's total of 128 for five wickets, while handy, was by no means a match-winning score and they were left ruing a rather tame end to their innings. After being well placed at 108-2 from 16 overs to post a score in the vicinity of 150, they were only able to add another 20 runs from the final 24 balls.
This was in no small part due some tidy Renwick bowling and energetic fielding. Herd's four overs went for just 13 runs, while Ed Gilhooly, Bovey, Leatham Landon-Lane and Weaver were also accurate and economical.
Renwick's chase for 129 began positively, Bovey blazing a quick 35 from 30 deliveries to ensure the required run rate didn't get out of reach.
After skipper Mike Bown's early demise, Corey Bovey added 42 in quick time with his brother before an error of judgment saw him run out.
George Kenny entered the fray and maintained the impetus with Rikki Bovey before the allrounder had his leg stump rocked back by MacDonald.
Kenny was stumped with the score at 88-4 in the 15th over but Rawlings, who had come to the crease at the fall of Rikki Bovey's wicket, was biding his time, keeping an eye on the run rate which hovered around nine an over after the 16th.
Gilhooly came and went cheaply but Harrison-Jones upped the run rate with a smart 10 off seven balls before he fell to the penultimate ball of the 18th over.
With 12 balls remaining Renwick needed 21 runs, a tall order against an attack that had been demanding throughout. Hamish Greenwood took the ball for the 19th over and, after new batsman Braden Stewart nudged the first for a single, Rawlings took over.
A six over midwicket was followed by three consecutive fours as the Cavaliers watched their victory hopes evaporate. A smartly run two on the final ball of the over prompted victory celebrations as the match was decided with six balls to bowl. Rawlings finished on 40 from 32 balls, the majority of his runs coming in the pivotal final over, and he was fittingly named man of the match.
Wairau's bowlers, led by a superb effort of 1-13 from four overs from MacDonald, were on top in the middle stages but Renwick's blazing start and Rawlings' heroics proved too much.
Losing skipper Vaughan Harris always felt their score was a tad light.
"I think 140 would have been good. And the last few overs [of our innings] cost us. They bowled pretty tight and we couldn't get them away. It wasn't the easiest deck to bat on but I think 140 would have been enough." Harris also rued allowing Renwick a quick start when they batted.
"We were probably a bit loose at the start. If we could have put some scoreboard pressure on them, with runs in the bank, that may have worked. We managed to do that a little bit during the middle stages but we let them get a few too many early on. It was always going down to the wire and, with wickets in hand, anything can happen. With the short boundary on one side that penultimate over was always going to be the toughest to get through."
So, will the Cavaliers be back next year?
"We've had a really enjoyable season, it's shame we couldn't cap it off with a win today but I guess that leaves a bit of fire in the belly for next year," said Harris. Renwick skipper Mike Bown was a relieved man immediately after the match.
"It's been a long time coming. We've copped some hidings over the past few seasons, so it's just nice that everything came together for four games, particularly today.
"I thought we were always in the game. When George and Corey were out there I knew that if one of them was there at the end we would go very, very close and fortunately one of them was."
Bown was happy with his bowlers, who restricted a potent Cavaliers batting lineup to a score they could chase down.
"To be able to restrict them to one boundary in the last four or five overs was just a fantastic bowling effort. They all did what was asked of them today.
"Corey [Rawlings] was a special hero though. He got us all together today, asked us to put the pink ribbons on. It was just written for the man, I think, the script was written for Corey Rawlings . . . he got us over the line at the end of the day."
- The Marlborough Express