WTTU in the box seat
Waimea Toi Toi United will take top billing into the Nelson two-day cricket final after securing a remarkable first day six-wicket outright victory over previous leaders Stoke-Nayland on Saturday.
Harrington's Beer Cafe WTTU and Car Company Stoke-Nayland will now meet again in the two-day decider in two week's time after WTTU prematurely finished the fifth and final round six points clear of the previous pace-setters.
And the signs were evident from the outset that batting would be a perilous exercise as WTTU bowlers Jon Routhan and Sam Baxendine exploited a green, seaming Jubilee Park pitch to set the tone for an absurdly truncated contest.
Routhan (4-17) and Baxendine (3-21) were virtually unplayable as they extracted lethal movement off the pitch and in the air to have the previous competition leaders disastrously placed at an incredible 10 for 7 in their first innings.
But further drama was to follow when Stoke-Nayland's stand-in skipper, Alex Coles, declared his team's innings at 49 for 8 to deny WTTU a third bowling bonus point.
As an intended tactical ploy, it ultimately made little difference to the overall context of the match as the ball continued to dominate the bat throughout the day.
In reply, WTTU lost six wickets before they were finally able to secure a first innings lead, eventually being dismissed for just 82 runs.
A 35-run eight-wicket stand between Chad Lowrie (14 not out) and Mitchell Ross (21) had helped avert an even more disastrous Stoke-Nayland batting collapse, while WTTU similarly required the contributions of opener Tom Ingham (22) and No 8 batsman Cade Armstrong (25) to ease the home team's own anxiety in an increasingly desperate run chase. Stoke-Nayland seamer Josh Sansom (5-20) earned some consolation with a five wicket bag, after Ross (3-38) had knocked the top off the innings.
Stoke-Nayland fared only marginally better in their second innings with 88 runs as Routhan struck decisively once again, taking 6 for 17 off his eight overs to finish with a superb 10-wicket match haul. Jake Beleski (21) and Coles (33) made useful starts in an ultimately futile cause, leaving WTTU just 56 runs for victory which they achieved at 60 for 4 in the 13th over.
Mason Thelin remained 24 not out at the finish after opener Steve Binnie had contributed a useful 19.
The other two matches are progressing at a much more predictable pace, Randles Cafe and Bar Wakatu having secured a first innings lead over Taylor's Contracting Wanderers at Brightwater and Sprig and Fern Tavern Motueka batsman Bryan Krammer highlighting his team's first day-efforts with a century against Athletic College Old Boys at Memorial Park.
Wakatu ended the day just seven runs in front at 207 for 8 after having dismissed Wanderers for 200 in 52.3 overs.
Wanderers' Luca Roden and Wakatu's Campbell McLean each contributed unbeaten half centuries, Roden topscoring with 51 not out, including 10 fours, in his team's innings and McLean ending the day on 54 not out, hitting eight fours and a six, when Tom Cross dismissed Bud Jackson with the day's final delivery in the 54th over of Wakatu's reply.
Young left-hand opener Paul O'Regan (32) and allrounder Cross (40) were the mainstays of Wanderers' top order, before a timely 60-run eighth wicket stand between Roden and Brodie Hanna (23) helped restore Wanderers' innings from a premature capitulation at 122 for 7.
However, Hanna's departure at 182 for 8 signalled the innings' quick demise with only a further 18 runs added for the final two wickets. Nathan Du Feu (3-59), Jay Wright (2-39) and McLean (2-3) were the leading wicket-takers.
Wakatu opener Giles Black backed up his previous week's century with a valuable 47 runs at the top of the order, although only McLean's unbeaten knock and a late 24-run contribution from Shane Laurence were able to provide the innings with any significant traction.
At 129 for 5, a 67-run, sixth-wicket stand between McLean and Laurence took Wakatu to within sight of a first-innings lead which they finally achieved seven wickets down.
Hayden Ingham (3-59) and Cross (2-13) led the wicket-takers, although Tim Field conceded just eight runs for his one wicket off eight overs.
Krammer's 100-run contribution was a timely response after Motueka had found themselves in early trouble at 85 for 5 after 33 overs and struggling to build any momentum.
His earlier 53-run fourth wicket stand with Duncan Cederman (17) had already helped to ease pressure at 32 for 3. But it was his 81-run, sixth-wicket partnership with Craig Hampton (20) that kick started a positive tailend response that eventually saw them dismissed for a respectable 292 off 89 overs.
Left just 16 overs to bat out the day, ACOB reached stumps at 54 for 1 with Greg Chitty (27) and Brodie Norris (10) the not out batsmen. But it was Krammer who helped salvage a listing Motueka innings, adding a further 51 runs with Dan Rae for the seventh wicket before he was caught off the bowling of offspinner Luke Toynbee at 217 for 7.
Krammer's innings included 16 fours.
Rae and Steve Fenemor compounded ACOB's growing frustration with another time-consuming 41-run stand for the eighth, Rae eventually trapped lbw for 48 and Fenemor bowled for 34.
Norris finished with 4 for 50 off 17 overs as ACOB's leading wicket-taker.
The Nelson Mail