The final six round robin matches of the inaugural Twenty20 competition were played on Saturday with the various results deciding final playoff places. While Celtic made no race of it with two wins and an early finish after Ryan De Joux struck 73 from only 27 deliveries to help them pass Geraldine’s score in only the eight over, the Star versus Timaru match effectively became a semi with the winner assured of the other final spot and fittingly the outcome was only know after the final ball was bowled well after 7.00pm at night.
Timaru were late getting back to Ashbury Park after their match in Temuka had run over time, and play never got under way until after 4.00pm, so the players and numerous spectators would have been pleased that it was the best day weather-wise this season.
Star won the toss and batted with openers Simon Ward and Alexander McKenzie continuing their form from the first game adding 42 for the first wicket. When McKenzie was second out for 36, the score was 60 but Star fell into the trap of not getting bat on ball to keep the scoreboard ticking over. They lost a couple of quick wickets before Andrew McRae was joined by Julian Blanchard and the run rate was soon picked up as the pair put pressure on the fielders and ran at every opportunity. McRae was eventually out caught for 26 and Blanchard left unbeaten on 14, but importantly they had helped Star through to a more competitive total of 132-7.
Timaru’s chase began steadily, but the loss of Grant Brookland early on slowed the accumulation of runs as the batsmen struggled to connect. Gerald Piddock answered his sideline critics who were hoping he would run himself out by eventually getting the pace of the pitch and putting bat on ball and capped off a good double for the day by top-scoring with 39.
Peter Grady, Tim Mackle and Kris Howes all made double figures, but Timaru continued to slip behind a comfortable run rate to chase. Craig Hinton (2-19) made it difficult for the batsmen at one end, while captain and Twenty20 bowling specialist Phil McGregor was the thorn in the Timaru side taking 3-21 from his 4 overs at the other end, and when McGregor began the final over, Timaru still needed nine runs to win. A couple of dot balls, a couple of runs, a wicket and suddenly the equation became 6 runs off 3 balls. McGregor then helped keep everyone on edge by bowling a wide. Finally it came to the last ball and No 10 Josh Smallridge facing his first ball had to hit a boundary to force a tie and bowl-off, or hit a six to give victory to Timaru. He swung hard, he connected, but although the ball dribbled to mid wicket it was never going over the boundary and Star took the honours after two wins on the day elevated them from bottom equal to second equal on points with Timaru and they get to go through to the final because they won this round robin match.
In the other matches played on the day, Celtic beat Waimate in a match where players were more worried about their safety than the opposition bowlers after they had to play on an inadequately prepared pitch apparently due to confusion over the draw. Nevertheless, in a format of the game that is meant to encourage free scoring, this was the second time that the pitch had been sub standard, particularly affecting the Waimate team who played on it both times and who would not be pleased after having to travel for every match in the Twenty20 to be playing cricket in unpleasant and dangerous environments.
Celtic came away victors after scoring 103-6 in reply to Waimates’s 101-7 but had looked in trouble at 76-6 before Glenn Matthews saw them safely home with 24 not out. Perhaps the only other people who enjoyed the pitch were Sam Carlaw who took 5-18 and the wicketkeepers with two stumpings each.
Star’s early match was against Geraldine. Geraldine batted first and soon it became the Phil Lill day as he opened the batting and tore into the opposition bowlers. The first wicket fell in the 11th over when Michael King was out for 11, but Lill continued on, clearing the front leg and playing mainly in an arc from mid wicket to long on before being run out for 67. Ben Millar added an unbeaten 27 to help Geraldine post a seemingly good total of 139-6, leaving Star a run chase of 7 an over.
Simon Ward and Alexander McKenzie opened the batting and almost did the job on their own as Ward scored his first senior fifty before being run out for 57. McKenzie scored his first fifty this season and went on to be 63 not out when Star won in the final over.
Geraldine’s match against Celtic began well with Lill again in great form and they may have been hoping to set Celtic a large chase after being 41-0 after three overs, but when Lill departed for 42, again it was only Ben Millar with 31 who scored many runs and Geraldine were all out for 118. Spin again proved to be the Celtic strong point and this time it was Craig Davies with 4-15 who did the damage and Andy Scott added three more stumpings to his haul to give him 5 for the day.
While Geraldine appeared to be enjoying their day out, their bowlers would have had heads hung low on the trip home after not getting a wicket in two matches, as the only opposition dismissals were two run outs.
The other two matches were played in Temuka and the home team started the day needing two wins for a chance to make the final. In the first game Timaru batted first and went on to score a good total of 154-6 with Piddock 35, Zane Sanders 32 and Robbie Rankin 22 not out leading the way. Michael Geddis was the best Temuka bowler with 3-21.
Despite losing two quick wickets in reply, opener Les Humphris continued his fine T20 form with another half century (60) and in the tail Dillon Lees with 33 not out helped get Temuka very close, but in the end they were 8 runs short after scoring 146-8. Ranking and Kris Howes with three wickets each led the Timaru attack.
Temuka played Waimate in their second match in what was probably a precursor to the finals playoff for 5th and 6th next weekend and Temuka have the early bragging rights after winning. Next weekend the three finals will be played consecutively at Aorangi Oval, beginning mid Saturday morning and finishing with the Celtic vs Star final mid afternoon.
R de Joux 73
P Lill 67
A McKenzie 63*
L Humphris 60
S Ward 57
S Carlaw 5-18