Run feast earns call-up

Hamish Blakely isn't your traditional debutant when it comes to the Southland Hawke Cup cricket team.

Usually it's fresh-faced teenagers straight out of school - or in some cases still at school - who walk into the Southland changing room for the first time.

But not the 32-year-old Cattle Flat sheep and beef farmer.

After 18 years playing for Riversdale, Blakely will this weekend notch up cap No 1 for Southland when they take on Mid-Canterbury in Invercargill in the all-important southern zone Hawke Cup two-day fixture.

To add to the unique debut, the top-order batsmen's selection has also come via the second-tier Combined Country competition rather than Southland's senior competition.

Blakely has dominated the Combined Country grade this season, posting a startling 693 runs from nine innings at an average of 86.63.

His 693 runs includes an unbeaten double century a fortnight ago, playing against Lumsden.

His form has prompted Southland coach Steve Jackson to originally include him in a Southland trial game earlier in the season and then to also play for a Southland Invitational XI in games against a visiting New Delhi club team and Otago under-19.

In the game against the New Delhi Players Club he scored a half century, which had him thinking just maybe a Hawke Cup call-up wasn't out of his reach.

Following that half-century he missed selection for the Southland game against North Otago, but with Mark Beer having to withdraw from this weekend's game, it has opened up a spot for Blakely, and Jackson has given him his chance.

Beer has been struggling with a shin injury which has restricted him from bowling recently and he has had to withdraw from this weekend's game.

Hamish O'Brien is also unavailable this weekend.

Blakely agreed he was thankful to get the opportunity to represent Southland and wasn't afraid to poke some fun at himself yesterday when he spoke with The Southland Times about his selection.

"I'm pretty old to be making my debut, aren't I," he said with a laugh.

Blakely was an accomplished junior cricketer, representing Otago under-16 in a team which also included internationals Brendon and Nathan McCullum.

But since then, playing for Riversdale has been his lot - until now.

To make this selection just that wee bit more special, his rise to the Southland ranks is the first for a Riversdale player in many years.

"Lou Hollands is the only one I can think of," Blakely said.

"That would have been 20 years ago-plus probably, it might have been 30 years ago."

As well as his cricket exploits, Blakely is also a well regarded rugby player for Riversdale and, last season for the Eastern-Northern Barbarians in Southland's premier club competition.

In 2003 the frontrower played a game for the Southland Stags, which will mean this weekend he will join a select few who have represented Southland in both rugby and cricket.

Others who have done it in recent years include David Hall, Ash Barron and Matt Petre.

Jason Domigan (capt) (Invercargill-Old Boys), Hamish Blakely (Riversdale), Hamish Cooke (Metro Tigers), Ryan Duffy (Metro Tigers), Shaun Fitzgibbon (Marist), Michael Grattan (Albion), Jonathan Hodson (Invercargill-Old Boys), Ryan Meyer (Invercargill-Old Boys), Rhuebyn Prattley (Albion), Craig Smith (SBHS), Simon Wadworth (Invercargill-Old Boys).

The Southland Times