New Plymouth Old Boys outplayed their Wanganui United rivals in all facets of their inter- district club cricket match at Pukekura Park on Saturday to win a spot in the Central Districts regional finals in Palmerston North in February.
Ballance NP Old Boys chased down Wanganui United's 168 in just 28.2 overs for the loss of only three wickets to move on to the next stage of finding the side that will represent Central Districts in the national one-day finals in Auckland in March.
After losing the toss, Old Boys surprised some when electing to open their bowling attack with left-arm spinner Mattie Thomas and medium pacer Jamie Watkins.
The move soon paid off, with the pair bowling well and restricting the run scoring to a trickle.
Wanganui scored just seven runs off the first five overs and were still struggling when 35-2 after 17 overs.
Teenager Brett Cameron (35), batting at No 3, and Brendon Walker (53) tried hard to dig their side out of a rut, but it was too little too late.
Walker looked in good touch and was batting positively, but was last man out, two balls after reaching his half-century off 49 balls.
Old Boys had no trouble reaching the target.
The stars for Old Boys - for the second time in the space of a week - were talented all-rounders James McDougall and Jamie Watkins.
The previous weekend, the duo were the leading lights in their team's premier grade final victory, scoring centuries and combining in a match-winning partnership.
On Saturday, McDougall tied the opposition batsmen down with his his off-spin deliveries. He was rewarded for his consistent bowling picking up two wickets and later displayed solid batting form to finish unbeaten on 64.
As he did in the one-day final at his previous innings, Watkins stepped up to open the batting with Jackson Braddock-Pajo.
Watkins attacked the bowling from ball one, scoring 65 off 62 balls, including four sixes and four fours.
His time at the creases came to an end when getting under a ball from Gerald Hobbs which was well taken by Stephen Holloway fielding at long on with the score at 115-2 in the 22nd over.
The game was safely in the bag at that stage and after Kent Jordan came and went for 13 runs from 10 balls it was left to McDougall and Brad Fale to go on and take their side through to victory.
McDougall's 64 runs were scored off 58 balls and included eight fours and two sixes, one a massive blow over the mid-on fence to level the scores. Fale scored the winning run off the second ball of the next over.
Old Boys are will now play the three other top four one-day teams from within the CD region in a weekend tournament on February 1-2 in Palmerston North.
"Hopefully we can do the same as [New Plymouth Marist United] did last year get through to the finals. It would be good to have another Taranaki team there," Watkins said.
Once the Christmas break is over, Old Boys will change their focus to the remainder of the Taranaki premier grade two-day competition, with their five rep players also expected to be a part of the two remaining Hawke Cup elimination matches to be played in January before the regional finals.
Old Boys have shown this season they are a well balanced, experienced side. Their seam and spin attack offers plenty of variety and they possess the ability to bat right down the order.
Watkins said he was just following the game plan when attacking the Wanganui bowling early.
"I thought I'd take the bull by the horns as it were and take a few risks.
"I was a little bit lucky, but if you're positive you generally have luck on your side."
Old Boys captain Riley McGregor was happy his side had taken another step down the track towards winning a spot in the national finals.
"It's a pretty good feeling," he said. "I think we did everything pretty well today." McGregor wasn't surprised when Wanganui decided to bat first on a worn pitch that had had five days play on it.
"Obviously there wasn't much grass coverage on the pitch, but we still wanted to bat first, not that it was going to deteriorate later on because it was going to be a good batting wicket all day."
McGregor said the find of the first half of the season was the opening batting partnership of Braddock-Pajo and Watkins.
"They've found a role for themselves and doing it really well."
Old Boys have been forced to try other opening options after regular opener Matt Shaw suffered a broken ankle early in the season.
"We've tried a fair few different options, but probably now found something that works for us.
"With James McDougall coming at first drop that also adds something to the side."
- Taranaki Daily News
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