10 wickets for the day including a hat-trick for Chris Esh alongside a powerful 95 by Hamish Drennan has taken Geraldine to the top of the table with one day’s play left to find the finalists in the Tweedy Cup.

At the start of the day Star appeared safe in top spot five points clear of Timaru and seven points ahead of Geraldine, but with Esh routing Waimate in Geraldine, and his team likely to pick up outright points with Waimate already 49-7 in their second innings, the match between Star and Timaru at Ashbury Park has taken on plenty of new meaning as well as throwing up a complex web of possible outcomes.

Unofficially after Day One, Geraldine has 54.89 points (with at least 10 more likely), Star has moved on to 51.89 points and Timaru to 45.59, still 6.3 points behind. A first innings win is worth 6 points but even if Timaru achieve this, they need to do so quickly before Star gain too many more batting points. Star’s safest path to the final is to win on the first innings which would assure them of a spot, albeit as second qualifiers behind Geraldine. With memories of last season’s last round demise still ringing around the clubrooms, batting practice will be at a premium in the Star nets this week.

On a slow day where some spectators struggled to stay awake, Timaru batted for 82 overs for their 219 after being put in by Star. This has turned the match into a first innings affair, a decision which may now come back to haunt Timaru unless they do dismiss Star very cheaply next week to secure first innings points and at the same time gain better bonus points than Star. This will not be easy with Star already 47-1 in reply.

For Timaru, Gerald Piddock followed up his pre-match thoughts that “today was his day” top scoring with 72 while earlier Scott Johnson scored 50 after being called in to open the batting before rushing off to Dunedin. Hitesh Angrish was also called in at late notice and scored 33, but it is a sad blight on cricket when a senior team can only field 10 players in a match where they could still be a competition finalist (they would have had 11 if the correspondent had taken up an offer to bat!).

Mark Evans with 3-27 and Tim Butler (2-19) were the pick of the Star bowlers while the hard working Hamish Dickson and Todd Elliotte both snaffled two wickets from 18 and 23 over spells respectively.

In Geraldine, after Waimate succumbed for 72 in their first innings to Chris Esh with his outstanding return of 6-12 including the hat-trick, Geraldine also struggled early on and were 53-5 before Drennan with 95 and the in form Regan Tate with 68 joined forces to add 153 runs for the sixth wicket, and take Geraldine well away from any danger. Alan Reid was again the best of the Waimate bowlers with 4-41, while Jason Sew Hoy took two wickets after relinquishing his keeper’s role in preparation for next season.

Waimate are faring no better in their second innings as Drennan with 3-7 took out the top order and Esh with a relatively expensive 4-24 has continued on from the first innings, and unless it rains it will take a Herculean effort for Waimate to save the match.

At Rockdale Rd the slow outfield and lack of preparation meant that like elsewhere, the pitch had become a minefield with inconsistent bounce leading to the most player umpire lbw decisions given all season. While batsmen had to make themselves get forward to every delivery, this didn’t always save them either, and to make matters worse, boundaries were at a premium, and unless the ball cleared it on the full, generally batsmen had to run to score.

Temuka who still had a chance to make the final as they did last season where they came from 5th to first in the last round, also disappointingly could only field 9 players. Despite this Temuka held the early upper hand with Celtic 57-5 at one stage as Kevin Teahen and Michael Geddis dominated with the ball, until Matt Mealings (28), Fred Morgan (45) and Ryan de Joux with 27 built partnerships to help Celtic to a respectable 182. Teahen finished with four wickets and Geddis three, while fill-in and South Canterbury selector Shane Gilkison made the most of his bowling opportunity to take 1-6, but by then the horse had bolted.

Temuka started well with openers Tristan Johnston and Richard Opie adding 53 in quick time for the first wicket, before Opie was out caught for 30, probably still thinking about the prize he had won for a six over mid wicket! Johnston continued on to be fourth out after scoring 40, but by now Sam Carlaw and Matt Mealings had settled on to the right length to bowl as they picked up four wickets each and Temuka were dismissed for 103 in 36 overs.

Batting a second time, Celtic is 64-2, with Matt Mealings 26 not out and leading the way in his new capacity as an all rounder. Celtic’s lead of 143 should give them a good chance to gain outright points, but this will be too little too late for Celtic as decisions made earlier in the season have thwarted their final aspirations.

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