Alexander 'Alpal or Finch' McKenzieDespite a brilliant unbeaten innings of 94 by 17 year old Alexander McKenzie, South Canterbury fell 28 runs short of a first innings win against Canterbury Country in their final Hawke Cup elimination match of the season, and will probably finish second as Canterbury Country although equal on points have a superior run rate even if their next match is washed out.

It was a battle of concentration as both teams played for first innings points on a batsmen’s paradise at Aorangi Oval. South Canterbury had a seven point lead going into the match and a first innings win would guarantee them a win in the Canterbury Districts section of the Hawke Cup.
Canterbury Country, with a match in hand needed first innings points to go ahead on run rate, or at least a draw so that an outright victory in their final game would give them the title.

South Canterbury started well by winning the toss and asking the opposition to bat first which was all part of the plan to get Country to make the play. This led to a long day in the field as 113 overs were bowled, with the bulk of the work falling to Dan Laming (4-112), Todd Elliotte (2-65), Alexander McKenzie (2-90) and Craig Hinton (1-90).

Country began quickly adding 106 runs for the first wicket in quick time, but the loss of Liam Bartholomeusz for 75 meant a slow down in the scoring rate which was surprising considering the number of wickets in hand. This pattern continued and it was only on rare occasions that the Canterbury Country batsmen looked to dominate and appeared to be happy to move along at a pedestrian rate of 3 runs an over, despite the fast outfield and easy batting pitch. Chris Bartholomeusz 69, Peter Carey 45 and then a fine century to stalwart Robbie Frew with 101 not out got them through to 389-9 when the declaration came and South Canterbury were required to face 3 overs before play ended for the day.

An ideal start for Country saw Craig Davies given out for the first lbw decision of the day and this brought about a change of batting order with Grant Brookland joined by Matt Mealings in a night watchmen’s role and at stumps South Canterbury were 6 for 1.

Only two overs into the new day and Brookland was run out and South Canterbury were struggling at 10-2 when Dam Laming strode to the wicket to join his club mate and try and turn the match back in South Canterbury’s favour.
Captain Todd Elliotte said that “the team had talked about the more experienced and senior players in the side having to step up”, and Laming was following instructions as he gradually began to dominate the bowling. Mealings’ innings also flourished as he spent time in the middle and without any pressure other than to bat all day he was 47 not out and had helped Laming on 75 not out take the side to lunch at 128-2 with an unbeaten century partnership.

As so often happens after a break, whether for drinks, food or the weather a wicket falls, and South Canterbury followed all the clichés losing Mealings and Danby at 140 and then Laming one run later.

This time it was Liam Crowley and James Laming who rebuilt the innings adding 54 runs before Laming was out, and again SC lost two more quick wickets to be facing a huge deficit at 203 for 8.

McKenzie in his second game for SC joined Captain Todd Elliotte at the crease with plenty of overs still to bat in order to save the day. Although Elliotte was batting with a dislocated finger in his right hand and unable to use much bottom hand when playing shots, his experience told as the pair added 73 runs and played each ball on its merits.

As rain clouds threatened, and the light deteriorated, the first task appeared to be to get to tea and then assess the situation. As it turned out, the rain became heavy enough that the umpires called for the covers at tea and the long waiting process began, bearing in mind the game could not resume if it was still even light drizzle.

In the end, an hour’s play was lost, but with play allowed to continue until 8.00pm no overs were lost. The pair continued until Elliotte’s dismissal for 38 had many spectators thinking the match won’t take long to finish now, but Craig Hinton had other ideas as he joined McKenzie in the middle.

Canterbury Country went on all out attack to Hinton, crowding him with fielders and feeding No 10 McKenzie a single to get him off strike, but Hinton was equal to the task as he hit two good sixes and defended stoutly.

All the time McKenzie was making milestones as he brought up his fifty off 65 balls and dispatched the ball to all parts including some huge drives for 6 at both ends. South Canterbury’s hopes revived as everyone in attendance stayed glued to proceedings, but eventually after adding a further 86 runs for the final wicket, and with McKenzie poised for a century on 94 off only 96 balls, Hinton was bowled for 24 and a very dejected player left the field with South Canterbury all out for 362, only 28 runs short of what would have been an amazing result.

For Canterbury Country Ben Bellamy with 3-79 and Chris Bartholomeusz 3-91 were the most successful bowlers, and although they took away the spoils, the maturity shown by McKenzie with ball and bat was the bright light in an enthralling match.

Scoreboard

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