Nelson superb in victory
Nelson have crossed another key task off their bucket list after completing a convincing first innings Hawke Cup cricket win over Marlborough in Blenheim.
It was a commanding Nelson performance, their bowlers capturing eight wickets for just 74 runs in yesterday's second session before enforcing the follow-on against their shell-shocked hosts at Horton Park.
Chasing Nelson's formidable 308-run first innings total yesterday, Marlborough's meagre 153-run first innings response left them 56 runs short of the follow-on mark and still trailing by 155 runs.
While the follow-on sparked a predictably aggressive response from openers Tim Abrahams, who hit a brisk 26 runs off 21 balls, and Sean Neal (13 off 12), Marlborough's early onslaught quickly dissipated as they ended the match at 72 for 3 in their second innings.
With half their four-match zone 3 programme now completed and 17 of 20 available points already in the bank, Nelson are in a comfortable position with only matches against Buller and Canterbury Country to follow. And it left Nelson coach Andrew Cavill feeling well satisfied with his players' efforts.
"We got into a couple of precarious positions there where things potentially could have gone pear-shaped [on Saturday] but various guys stood up and did a job for us to get us through to that 308," he said.
"The bowling, to be honest, was very good. We were pretty demanding of them [on Saturday night] and we started off really well this morning [Sunday].
"We stuck to plans, good field placings and good fielding, so generally it was a top all round effort."
Marlborough had resumed yesterday at six without loss and despite the encouragement provided by a 44-run second wicket stand between opener Tim Abrahams (29) and Chris Gibb, followed by a further 43-run fourth wicket offering between Gibb and Greg Stretch (19), Nelson's bowlers steadily tightened their grip as wickets fell regularly in the post-lunch session.
Gibb eventually went for 56 off 135 balls at 123 for 5, Gibb hitting seven fours and a six, with only an unbeaten 14 runs from No 9 batsman Ben Stark offering any further resistance.
Left arm spinner Marty Kain again proved most effective, finishing with 4 for 41 after ending Marlborough's innings with the first ball of his 20th over. Offspinner BJ Barnett enjoyed economical figures of 2 for 6 off 11 overs, eight of them maidens, while seamers Darius Skeaping (2-27), Connor Neynens (1-31) and Joe O'Connor (1-21) also shared in the spoils.
Nelson right-hander Greg Hay had previously continued his bountiful summer, top scoring in Nelson's innings on Saturday with 79 runs off a patient 152 balls and including 13 boundaries. However, another batting star ultimately emerged as Simon McGowan stepped up at No 8 to score an unbeaten 60 runs and help steer a responsive Nelson tail through to their satisfying 308-run total.
Nelson had been under genuine early pressure at 36 for 3 after just 13 overs with both openers, Kain (3) and Dan Cooper (16), and captain Barnett (7) all quickly back in the pavilion. But three substantial partnerships, two of them involving Hay and the biggest signalling McGowan's burgeoning presence, helped Nelson achieve some crucial late momentum.
Hay found an initial ally in Ryan Edwards, their 62-run fourth wicket stand helping lift the score to 98 before Edwards was out lbw to Greg Knowles for 22. Connor Neynens joined Hay in another profitable 59-run stand for the next wicket, finally broken when Hay pulled Ben Stark to midwicket at 157 for 5. It was Hay's first dismissal in four consecutive innings and the prized scalp for a demanding Marlborough attack.
Enter McGowan, and while the newly appointed wicketkeeper-batsman added a useful 22 runs with Neynens for the seventh wicket, it was his lucrative 83-run partnership with a pugnacious Joe O'Connor for the eighth wicket that ultimately wrenched the game away from Marlborough.
Neynens' steadying 45-run innings, including six fours, had come at a critical time for Nelson, but it was McGowan and O'Connor who ultimately seized the initiative after Marlborough had taken the second new ball as they effectively proceeded to bat the home team out of the game.
O'Connor wasted little time, hammering 49 runs and eight fours off just 59 balls.
But just one run short of a deserved half century, O'Connor edged Knowles through to wicketkeeper Matt Stretch with Nelson's total by now at a solid 263 for 8. McGowan's respective 21-run and 24-run partnerships with Darius Skeaping and Marty King for the final two wickets helped lift the total beyond the 300 mark, McGowan's unbeaten stand lasting 145 balls and including eight fours.
Cavill said Nelson are now nicely set up to head positively into the remainder of their programme after Christmas.
"If you'd said after two games we'd get 17 out of 20 [points], well you've ticked the boxes there pretty well."
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