Southland sniff victory but Manawatu prevail

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:00 10/03/2014

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Southland cricket coach Steve Jackson has heaped plenty of praise on his team despite them coming up short in their attempt to win the Hawke Cup for the first time since 1992.

Southland made the trip to Palmerston North to take on Manawatu in a three-day Hawke Cup challenge which finished yesterday and there was disappointment last night when they reflected on what could have been in the three-wicket loss.

However, Jackson said while the result was not what they were after, the effort was something they should all be proud of.

"It's not the size of the man in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the man," he said, summing up his team's attempt to pull off an upset and win the Hawke Cup.

"The boys fought like hell right until the bitter end; we were always up against it but they believed they always had a chance to do it," he said. Jackson paid a special tribute to strike bowler Craig Smith who injured his hamstring four overs into his first spell but went on to bowl 32.3 overs in the first innings and another 10 in the second innings to give his team the best chance of victory.

Whenever Southland's chances looked doomed throughout the three days, they kept clawing their way back into the contest and in particular on the third and final day yesterday. Southland began the final day trailing by 104 runs with all 10 wickets in hand in their second innings, which had Manawatu at very short odds of retaining the Hawke Cup.

However Southland knocked off the deficit in the first hour thanks mainly to opener Sam Ward's second half-century of the match.

They kept playing with freedom as they got through to 242 all out in 46.3 overs.

It left Manawatu needing 139 runs for victory or 50-odd overs to bat out for the draw. Manawatu remained in the box seat but again Southland kept scrapping and they rocked Manawatu by taking two wickets in the first two balls of their second innings.

Craig Smith first struck Brynn Cleaver in front first ball of the innings with the opener adjudged lbw before Mark Beer ran Mitch Renwick out next ball.

Manawatu recovered to get to 97 for two but Southland refused to give up, with spinner Mike Grattan and Jonathan Hodson taking three wickets for five runs.

When Mike Mason departed and Southland had Manawatu at 121 for seven, the Hawke Cup dream was alive for Southland.

However, Rob Sheary (28) calmed the Manawatu nerves and got them home.

In the washup, the difference was Dave Meiring.

Meiring scored 167 in Manawatu's first-innings total of 344 and then 71 in the second innings as the home team stumbled across the line to victory.

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Southland felt they had Meiring caught behind on 35 before he went on to make 167 but the call did not go their way.

It was one of those "what if" moments Southland will reflect on in what was probably their closest shot at winning the Hawke Cup for the past 20 years.

logan.savory@stl.co.nz

- The Southland Times

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