Taranaki representative cricketers need to do some serious soul searching after their side's record loss against Manawatu in a Hawke Cup match at Pukekura Park on Saturday.
It was a limp display from the home side, with two full days' play allowed for the first-round qualifying match. But only one day was needed, the match done and dusted by late afternoon with Manawatu walking off the pitch winners by an innings and 68 runs.
After winning the toss and electing to bat, Revital Fertilisers Taranaki folded in 13.4 overs, dismissed for a paltry 35 runs.
Manawatu then dispelled any thoughts that the fresh wicket was the cause for the capitulation scoring 183 runs in their first innings.
Few would have picked Taranaki to collapse for a second time. They did, with Manawatu dismissing Taranaki for just 80 runs in their second innings to claim outright points.
Taranaki coach Kerry O'Neill could not hide the disappointment of his side's capitulation.
"A most humiliating defeat," he said. "There's not much you can say about it . . . very disappointing.
"There was some conjecture as to whether we should have batted first, but [Manawatu] got 183 straight after us and our strength was in our batting," O'Neill said.
"Our batting performance didn't do credit to the wicket. It had a bit in it, but it certainly wasn't a 35-all-out wicket."
O'Neill believed Taranaki's first innings total was a record for a Taranaki A representative team.
"It's a record you don't want to have. The previous lowest total was 44 runs in 2002 and that was also against Manawatu."
Taranaki won the toss, with opening batsmen Peter Ingram and Dean Robinson starting confidently - Ingram hitting an early boundary. But no sooner did they appear settled, Robinson was given out trapped leg before off the bowling of former Black Cap and Manawatu player-coach Michael Mason. It started the slide.
Mason was in dominant form removing the top three batsmen - Robinson (8), Ingram (8) and then skipper Dion Ebrahim who finished up as top scorer with 10.
Any hope the Taranaki middle or lower order could stage a recovery soon vanished. The last seven Taranaki wickets fell for the addition of just seven runs.
Mason and CD fast bowler Roald Badenhorst both bagged five wickets.
Mason showed his all-round ability, top-scoring with the bat for Manawatu, with an unbeaten half century batting at number nine.
Manawatu's 10th-wicket partnership between Mason and number 11 Nick Simon produced 70 runs to turn the screws on Taranaki and apply even more pressure. The only bright spot for Taranaki in the whole match was the honours board bowling performance of Jamie Watkins in Manawatu's first innings.
The veteran medium pace swing bowler took six wickets for 55 runs of his 19 overs including six maidens.
Taranaki appeared on track to save the game when Manawatu slumped to five down for 39 runs before they got away.
The second innings for Taranaki wasn't much better than the first.
Ingram was out for a duck edging a Mason delivery to wicket-keeper Dane Cleaver. Apart from William Young who made 23, none of the others managed more than 18 runs.
Badenhorst and Mason were again the main destroyers, Badenhorst finishing the match with a 10-wicket haul, conceeding just 14 runs, while Mason picked up nine wickets.
Manawatu picked up 10 points for the win to get their Hawke Cup campaign off in style, while Taranaki were left searching for answers.
O'Neill said it was back to the drawing board for his squad as they prepare for a match against Wairarapa at Pukekura Park on December 4. Taranaki will be without Central Districts reps Robinson and Young for that match with the pair away with the HRV Twenty20 squad.
"We got players coming back before then," O'Neill said.
Among them are Stratford top- order batsmen Tom Bruce and Woodleigh and ex CD A offspinner Andrew Mason, who has made himself available to play representative cricket after earlier indicating he was having a season off.
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