College well tuned for D'Arcy Cup challenge
Defending champions Nelson College will enter the Tasman secondary schools D'Arcy Cup one-day competition on Monday with the weight of history behind them, and a great deal of form.
Finalists for the past two years, the Nelson College First XI have won five of six games in 2013.
Along with Marlborough Boys' College, Nelson have effectively been handed a semifinal berth, while the other teams had to play for the right to take on the perennial powerhouses.
At Lower Ngawhatu on Monday, Nelson College will meet Motueka High School, after they beat Picton's Queen Charlotte College. Marlborough will face Waimea College at the Marsden Rec after Nayland College defaulted.
The winner of the local competition will progress to the Central Districts zone Gillette Cup playoffs, part of the national secondary schools competition.
Earlier this week Nelson College continued their season at the Willows Cricket Club in Rangiora, where they played annual fixtures against the Willows club team and Shirley Boys' High School.
The Willows is a private club set up to promote First XI cricketers playing with and against experienced players, including past or present first-class cricketers and some former New Zealand representatives.
For only the second time in 12 years, Nelson College defeated the Willows team, which included players like Canterbury "legend" and New Zealand cricketer Paul McEwan, Andrew Nuttall, and former Nelsonrepresentative, legspinner Peter Younghusband.
Nelson chased down the total of 162 on a tricky wicket. The five-wicket win in the 50-over match under a hot sun was hard-fought, and the next day Nelson suffered their first loss of the season.
Shirley posted 170 batting first on Monday, and the difficult chase ended with Nelson College being dismissed for 145.
Despite the loss, Nelson College First XI coach Garry MacDonald said he was confident heading into the two days of the D'Arcy Cup competition.
"Our batting lineup is probably our strength," said MacDonald.
"Right to seven we've got some pretty competent batsmen, who have all come off runs, every one of them. I'd like to think that runs won't be an issue."
Nelson College went unbeaten at their annual quadrangular tournament late last month.
In the three one-day games, Rathkeale and Hutt International Boys' School were defeated by the same 110-run margin. Against their D'Arcy Cup opponents Marlborough, Nelson cruised to an eight-wicket victory.
On the way home, the annual game against Rongotai College in Wellington was a one-sided affair.
The in-form Joel Harden smashed a double century as Nelson posted 325 from their 45 overs. In reply, Rongotai were bowled out for 118 to hand Nelson a 207-run victory.
Recent performances will add to the credence already gained by Nelson's recent D'Arcy Cup dominance. Last season, Nelson beat Marlborough by a resounding 159 runs in the tournament final at Lower Ngawhatu, backing up from a 99-run win against them in 2011.
MacDonald said that while the team had form and confidence, they still had to perform.
"We have started to get things right, although it is a knockout competition now. We will play Motueka, and if we beat them, we have to play Marlborough or Waimea. Both of those sides are good sides."
The D'Arcy Cup final is due to be played on Tuesday at Lower Ngawhatu.
- The Nelson Mail