Nelson prominent in Hawke Cup top echelon

Last weekend's selection of four former Nelson players in a Hawke Cup team of the century won't have surprised local cricket enthusiasts.

Some might even argue that there should have been more, but let's not get greedy.

Nelson's Ian Leggat, Dave Spence, Barry Hampton and Roger Pierce comprised one-third of the 12-man squad selected by Ross Dykes (convener), Nelson's Jock Sutherland and Alan Whimp to mark 100 years of the inter-district challenge competition.

That is a significant proportion and one that genuinely reflects the major contribution Nelson has made to minor-association cricket since Southland won the initial tournament, as it was then, in the 1910-11 season.

Nelson still holds the record for the longest tenure, a magnificent period spanning 28 defences between 1958 and 1965, and during which Leggat, Spence and Hampton each played prominent roles.

Leggat, now in Hamilton, still holds the mantle as the competition's leading run scorer, having amassed 2336 runs in 48 matches from 1948 to 1968.

As a middle-order batsman and medium-pace bowler, Leggat also took 166 wickets to place him third on the all-time bowling list.

Spence, who now lives in Sydney, represented both Nelson and Hawke's Bay in 34 matches from 1949 to 1967, finishing with a 1548-run career aggregate and 104 wickets for Nelson from his legspin bowling.

Hampton, on the scene a little later, from 1960 to 1975, accumulated 1787 runs and 71 wickets as a top-order batsman and medium-pace bowler.

Hampton, whose brother, Ian, coached Nelson to 14 successful defences from 1979 to 1983, now lives in Christchurch.

An opening batsman, Pierce was part of Ian Hampton's squad, his Hawke Cup career stretching from 1969 to 1989 and realising 1967 runs from 38 matches and a modest 39 wickets as a part-time slow-medium bowler. Pierce is now based in Hawke's Bay.

While they comprise a notable quartet of rich Nelson talent, many others also left indelible marks.

Besides Leggat, five other Nelson batsmen achieved more than 2000 Hawke Cup career runs, with Lawrie Reade, Graham Lowans, John Smith and, more recently, John Ogilvie and Duncan Cederman now among the leading Hawke Cup run scorers.

Cederman's tally included a staggering 10 centuries, with Pierce not far behind, on seven.

As an allrounder, former Nelson captain David Leonard achieved a notable career double of 1483 runs and 152 wickets from his 68 Hawke Cup appearances from 1985 to 2005, while, individually, Mick Kinzett's unbeaten 272 against Marlborough during the 1933-34 season and Wayne Hodgson's 265 against Taranaki in 1983-84 still rank first and third, respectively, among the highest Hawke Cup innings in challenge matches.

While people might still debate the Hawke Cup's relevance in today's cricketing environment, it will always hold a special place in Nelson's sporting history.