Stoke-Nayland, WTTU well ahead of the pack
Innings victories to Stoke-Nayland and Waimea Toi Toi United have virtually turned the Nelson senior two-day cricket competition into a two-horse race with two rounds of competition still remaining.
Car Company Stoke-Nayland's comprehensive innings and 91-run win over Sprig and Fern Tavern Motueka at the Marsden Rec on Saturday, and Harrington's Beer Cafe WTTU's equally conspicuous innings and 10-run win over Randles Cafe and Bar Wakatu at Victory Square, appear to have set them on course for a final showdown in five weeks' time.
Taylor's Contracting Wanderers are still shadowing the two runaway contenders after picking up an important six-wicket outright win over Athletic College Old Boys at the Botanics. And with the top sides losing players to the Nelson representative side over the coming weeks, there's still time for some of the stragglers to make a late bid.
However, with 54 points from three rounds, leaders Stoke-Nayland look well cushioned at the head of the table, with WTTU, now on 43 points, also looking comfortably placed. Third-placed Wanderers now have 23 points, ACOB 16, Wakatu 15 and Motueka 8.
WTTU batsman Greg Hay produced the club innings of the season to date, continuing from his overnight score of 120 not out to remain unbeaten on 161, off just 190 balls, when WTTU skipper Jon Routhan eventually declared at a formidable 322 for 6.
In response to Wakatu's dismal 118-run first-innings knock. WTTU continued from their overnight score of 221 for 3 to set up an indomitable match-winning total.
Hay's superb innings included 25 fours and three sixes, while adding 76 runs with a confident Mason Thelin (41) for the fourth wicket.
Then it was left to Wakatu's batsmen to try to mount some sort of meaningful rearguard action, the home team requiring a further 205 runs to make WTTU bat again.
Opener Giles Black survived a vociferous early lbw appeal by Routhan to eventually topscore with 49 runs in Wakatu's second innings. But with Richie Wilkinson (44) and No 11 batsman Greg Du Feu (27 not out) providing the only other innings of any substance, WTTU's bowlers steadily eroded Wakatu's innings as their chances of saving the contest rapidly evaporated.
A fighting 52-run last-wicket stand between Wilkinson and Du Feu offered one last hint of defiance before Simon Carr finally claimed Wilkinson's wicket to end a one-sided contest.
Motueka were without two key batsmen and Stoke-Nayland were missing two of their leading strike bowlers, although the home team completed a seamless transition into day two to secure the easiest of victories at the Marsden Rec.
Motueka's task was tough enough, requiring a demanding 209 second-innings runs to make Stoke-Nayland bat again after century-maker Ryan Edwards declared his team's innings closed on Saturday at 264 for 8. But without two of their most experienced batsmen, Duncan Cederman and John Ogilvie, Motueka were never seriously likely to threaten Stoke-Nayland's already solid grip on the match.
Edwards had ended day one unbeaten on 99 with Stoke-Nayland's total at 218 for 3. He added a further 16 runs on Saturday, all fours, before he was finally out for 115 to eventually declare with one batting bonus point in the bank.
A makeshift Motueka batting lineup barely tested Stoke-Nayland's own stretched resources, with seam bowlers Darius Skeaping and Marty King out of their second-day attack. Wickets fell steadily throughout Motueka's second innings, despite a 39-run third-wicket stand between opener Jorden LeLong (18) and Bryan Krammer (30) offering some early resistance.
Krammer's dismissal at 67 for 3, lbw to Dylan Eginton without offering a shot, sparked the landslide as Motueka's last eight wickets fell for 50 runs. Dylan Phillips' 23-run contribution and a late unbeaten 21-run flourish by No 10 batsman Chris Bayard, including five fours, also provided some ultimately futile defiance.
Motueka were finally dismissed for 117, with all five Stoke-Nayland bowlers contributing. Eginton (3-49), a miserly Mitchell Ross (2-3) and Gus Riley (2-21) were well backed up by Edwards (1-14) and Josh Sansom (1-25), who ended the contest with the dismissal of a gallant Russell Cederman in the 40th over.
Half-centuries by opening batsman Adam Leonard and Connor Neynens helped to steer Wanderers to victory over ACOB to end a profitable day for the visiting team.
Set 215 runs for victory off 46 overs, Leonard scored 51 for his maiden senior half-century, after contributing to a brisk 70-run opening stand with skipper Dan Cooper (42). The pair scored 50 runs off the first five overs, Cooper's innings including seven fours and a five, before Neynens continued the momentum with his 66-run contribution, including six fours and two sixes.
Tom Cross was 31 not out at the finish, Wanderers having earlier secured first-innings points after resuming the day at 87 for 4 in search of ACOB's 140-run first-innings total.
A hard-working ACOB bowling attack picked up the wickets of Neynens (18), Jack White (11) and Luca Roden (0) at 113 for 7, before Joe O'Connor (27 not out) and Brodie Hanna (11 not out) steered Wanderers through to 148 for 7 at the declaration. Seamer Paul van Meekeren (3-50) and left arm spinner Marty Kain (3-16 off 13 overs) each took three wickets.
ACOB openers B J Barnett and Greg Chitty maintained a brisk early run rate in their 70-run opening stand, Barnett hitting six fours and a six in his 39 and Chitty nine fours and two sixes in his 71-run offering. Luke Toynbee (23) and the final unbeaten pair of Joel Harden (37 not out) and Glen Baumfield (18 not out) helped to push the score through to 222 for 5 at the declaration.
Cooper and Leonard gave Wanderers the early impetus they needed as Neynens also kicked into gear to help cement a satisfying win.
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