Metro's drubbing dampens club cricket hopes
In the space of six weeks or so the image of Southland club cricket had taken a couple of positive steps forward, as far the wider Otago regional thinking goes, before taking a decent leap backwards in Dunedin on Sunday.
Southland cricket has for many years struggled to be a big player in the Otago setup in progressing players to the Otago Volts and Otago A teams.
Youngster Jacob Duffy broke the drought for Southland last season when the then-17-year-old become just the second home-grown Southlander to play for the Volts in 15 years.
The other was Nic Turner in 2006, whose selection in the Volts came after he decided to play his club cricket in Dunedin instead of his club, Appleby, in Southland.
When Southland club Metro knocked over Carisbrook-Dunedin in the quarterfinals of the Southland/Otago club knockout competition and then backed it up a fortnight later with a win over leading Dunedin club Green Island, there was a feeling a pretty clear statement had been made.
That statement was that the standard of Southland club cricket shouldn't be scoffed at when looking at Otago A selections at the very least.
On Saturday, Metro wanted to firm up that statement with a win over Kaikorai in the final and book a place in the national club finals in Auckland in April.
A strong showing, at the very least, by Metro in the final would have given Southland club cricket a good pass mark when people scrutinise its standard.
After all it is the first time that a non-Dunedin club had booked a place in the knockout competition final.
That strong showing, however, didn't follow as they suffered a disappointing 140-run loss to Kaikorai, ending what had been a golden run.
It had the makings of one of Southland cricket's more exciting days with a big contingent making the trip to Dunedin to witness proceedings before it fell flat on its face with a one-sided contest.
It also now leaves unanswered the question of just where Southland club cricket sits compared with our Dunedin neighbours at the moment.
Metro and Invercargill-Old Boys were the sole Southland clubs to enter this season's knockout competition and in round one of the competition Invercargill-Old Boys were dispatched when they were rolled by Carisbrook-Dunedin for just 56.
The Metro camp that progressed to the final on Saturday believed the gap between the regions was not quite as big as some may have thought.
They had belief and confidence they could win the game only for that to come crashing down in double-quick time.
Metro captain Mark Beer still thinks Southland clubs are making progress.
"I think the gap is definitely closing," he said.
"I think good club players in Southland are on par with teams in Dunedin.
"However, the difference between Dunedin club cricket and Southland club cricket is that in Dunedin club sides have 11 good club players, where Southland teams are made up of six or seven key players and then four or five players are not at the same level," he said.
"In the past few years, with a push to have more games played on grass, the level of club cricket has risen in Southland, and I think the introduction of declaration cricket is also going to help further raise the level as batsmen will learn the art of batting for longer periods, and will be doing so against better bowlers," he said.
In Southland circles when it comes to crunch games the lack of runs has been the Achilles' heel.
When Southland lost to Hamilton last season in a Hawke Cup challenge it was a failure from someone to contribute a big score that was lamented.
On Sunday, in the Southland/Otago club knockout final for Metro, it too was also the runs on the board that went missing in such a key fixture.
A Southland club's progress to the Southland/Otago final for the first time must be applauded.
But it highlights there is still a bit of work to do if a club from Southland is to be crowned the Southland/Otago champions.
- The Southland Times