'Best live knock' in WTTU win
All that was missing was the Santa suit.
Greg Hay delivered his own special brand of festive cheer for his Waimea Toi Toi United team-mates yesterday, completing an unbeaten century to help steer his team to victory against Stoke-Nayland in a thrilling Nelson two-day cricket final at Saxton Oval.
WTTU were nine wickets down and definitely feeling the pinch when Hay eventually pulled Marty King to the midwicket boundary to reach their 246-run target and spark the celebrations in the WTTU camp.
Hay has been plundering club and representative bowling attacks all year, with yesterday's match-winning innings of 138 not out his third unbeaten century of the season and clearly the difference between two otherwise evenly matched and competitive sides.
But while Hay provided the game's star batting turn, the bowling plaudits belonged to Stoke-Nayland pace bowler Marty King and his sidekick Darius Skeaping who almost helped deliver their team a stunning win.
Having already scored 42 runs from No 9 to help rescue a stagnating Stoke-Nayland innings on Saturday, King produced a heroic performance with the ball yesterday to deliver a staggering 37 overs for figures of 5 for 105. Skeaping showed an equally big heart to take 4 for 59 off 31 overs at the other end.
Yet for all his heroics, Hay said he was certainly feeling the pressure towards the finish as wickets continued to fall at the other end.
"It was pretty intense at the finish there, that was for sure," Hay said.
"To be honest, it was a pretty difficult wicket to feel that you were ever in on. It wasn't your typical flat wicket where once you get to 30 or 40 you felt in and felt that you could really play all your shots, because the bounce was a little bit inconsistent. You had to be really working hard the whole time you were out there so if one ball had your name on it, that would be it."
Hay acknowledged the irony in scoring the winning runs off the lion-hearted King. "I played and missed [against King] I don't know how many times and the line and length he bowled all day was just phenomenal. It was an outstanding effort." Hay still had plenty of opportunity to display his full armoury of shots, eventually hitting 17 fours and a six during his 254-ball stay at the crease.
Coming in late on Saturday afternoon at 8 for 1, Hay and Steve Binnie appeared to set the innings well on course with their 85-run second wicket stand, Binnie contributing 15 runs off 79 balls.
But when Binnie clipped Skeaping to point at 93-2, one end was suddenly exposed as Skeaping and King began to seriously increase WTTU's anxiety levels.
With Hay immovable after surviving one particularly confident appeal for caught behind off King with his score in the 70s, support eventually came in the form of Cade Armstrong (15 off 41 balls), Symon Carr (17 off 60) and, finally, Sam Baxendine, who was there at the finish when Hay smashed the winning boundary.
Stoke-Nayland had also showed plenty of fight on day one to eventually reach their 245-run total after struggling for much of their innings on a difficult pitch.
Several significant partnerships belied the inability of individual batsmen to capitalise on promising starts.
Captain Ryan Edwards, Alex Coles, Ben Homan, Dylan Eginton and a resolute King each laid the foundations for substantial innings, although none went on to post the telling score that might have swung the match irrevocably in Stoke-Nayland's favour.
Edwards eventually top-scored with 47 runs and, although just short of his 50, offered a return catch to Armstrong, diving to his left, at 81-4. It ended a 22-run stand with Coles, Edwards having previously added 45 runs for the third wicket with Mo Taylor, whose 15 runs off 69 balls typified the necessary caution against an accurate and persistent WTTU bowling attack.
Coles and Homan put on 54 runs for the fifth wicket before Homan again capitulated when seemingly into his stride, the right-hander scoring 39 off 61 balls and hitting six fours and a six. Gone at 135-5, Coles went at the same score, trapped lbw by left arm spinner Dan Wightman for 21 off a watchful 96 balls. And when Jake Beleski went for just 14 at 152-7, edging Wightman to wicketkeeper Hamish Drummond, Stoke-Nayland were in danger of collapse.
Eginton and King came together to dramatically change the course of the innings, the pair adding a defiant 79 runs for the eighth wicket before King finally edged seamer Baxendine to Hay at first slip for a gritty 42 off 79 balls. King's innings included seven valuable boundaries.
Eginton and Josh Sansom finally went off consecutive Armstrong deliveries to end the innings, Eginton gone for 38 off 96 balls.
Wightman operated for almost a third of the entire innings, delivering 28 controlled overs to finish with a miserly 3-45, with Armstrong capturing 3-18 off 8.4 overs. Baxendine finished with 2-51, while Symon Carr's only wicket was with his very first delivery, bowling opening batsman Darius Skeaping middle stump.
With victory finally secured yesterday, WTTU skipper Jon Routhan agreed it was a fitting way to end the two-day series.
"You couldn't have asked for a better advertisement for two-day cricket," he said.
"It was pretty satisfying, it was pretty nail-biting there for a while. It was just a great game of cricket [and] we would have been disappointed if we'd lost." Routhan agreed with losing captain Ryan Edwards that Hay's innings was the "best live knock" they had ever seen, also paying tribute to King's big-hearted efforts.
"You couldn't ask for more out of a final between two very good sides."
The Nelson Mail