Hay in the groove in Hawke Cup warmup

Greg Hay is in superlative batting touch at present.

Just a week after completing an unbeaten 161-run innings for his Waimea Toi Toi United club cricket side, the elegant right-hand batsman was right back in the groove for Nelson yesterday, compiling an unbeaten 96 runs against Canterbury Country at the Marsden Rec.

Their scheduled two-day representative encounter was ultimately reduced to one after Saturday's play was completely washed out because of rain and drizzle. It was also meant to provide both teams with some valuable match practice ahead of their respective zone 3 Hawke Cup campaigns. Nelson begin theirs next weekend against West Coast at Saxton Oval, and while yesterday's condensed match wasn't officially reduced to a limited overs contest, the two teams instead opted to split the 110 overs available to them for the day under Hawke Cup rules.

In that light, Nelson emerged much the happier after a solid batting effort, led conspicuously by Hay, saw them reach 257 for 3 off their 55 overs before restricting Canterbury Country to 197 for 9 in their turn at bat.

Hay's contribution was by no means in isolation after he combined with No 5 batsman Connor Neynens in a lucrative unbroken 142-run fourth wicket partnership which ended with Neynens smashing a ball back over the bowler's head for six. It also left Neynens 86 not out at the end of the innings, although it was Hay who commanded much of the attention with a consummate, chanceless performance.

Hay looked in complete control from the time he arrived at the crease with Nelson at 15 for 1. He added a further 52 runs with opener Ryan Edwards before Edwards, also seemingly in command, played across the line and was bowled by Liam Bartholomeusz for 25, including five fours.

Skipper BJ Barnett's was the only other wicket to fall, trapped lbw by Struan George for 23 at 115 for 3, as Hay and Neynens proceeded to dominate the remainder of the innings. Neynens offered three chances as he sometimes struggled to impose himself on a determined Country attack. But once into his rhythm, Neynens' powerful strokeplay eventually saw him hit 14 fours and a six during his 109-ball innings.

Hay's fluent innings included 19 boundaries to all parts of the ground off 134 balls, before finishing just four excruciating runs shy of a deserved century.

In reply, Country's top four batsmen all made starts although only No 3 batsman, left-hander Matt Laffey, and Andrew Robertson were able to bat long enough to ensure Nelson's bowlers were denied all 10 first innings wickets. Both openers, Bartholomeusz (23) and Ash Andrews (18) failed to carry on after surviving a testing new ball examination from Joe O'Connor and Marty King.

Opening bowler O'Connor enjoyed a thorough workout, completing 17 overs in two energetic spells to be Nelson's most penetrative bowler with 4 for 34. Dylan Eginton took 3 for 47 off his nine overs, his tally including two excellent gully catches by Barnett to dismiss both Robertson for 42 at 99 for 3 and Robbie Frew without scoring just two runs later. Robertson hit nine fours off 41 balls.

But it was Laffey who effectively helped to keep Country in the contest, his 71 runs including nine fours and two sixes off 98 balls. He eventually went at 182 for 6, well stumped down the leg side by Simon McGowan off offspinner Barnett, before Country eventually limped to 197 for 9 after Andrew Laffey was caught at short leg by Dan Cooper, again off Barnett, off the last ball of the match.

Barnett finished with 2 for 4 off a minimal three overs.

The Nelson Mail