It was a 40.3-degrees-Celsius day, and while many suffered in Timaru’s hottest day on record, the Timaru Cricket Club was basking in their best day of senior cricket for the 2010-11 season.
With the South Canterbury senior Twenty20 cricket competition being played over Waitangi Weekend last year, Timaru had a clean slate and they took advantage of it, making the final against Celtic.
They could not buy a win in either the one-day or two-day competitions but in the final against the defending champions, they gave plenty of cheek, before conceding 20 runs from the penultimate over, which saw Celtic get home in the final over, chasing 146.
Fast-forward 12 months and the teams will meet again tonight in the Twenty20 final at Aorangi Oval.
Celtic will be deserved favourites, having lost just once this season in all competitions and on track to complete a three-peat of senior titles.
The loss, however, was in the round-robin of the Twenty20 competition – to Timaru.
Timaru captain Hayden Butler chose to spin the form guide in his favour.
“How are we going to beat Celtic?” he asked. “How are Celtic going to beat us?
“We’ve beaten them once already this season and the pressure is all on them.
“Everyone probably expects us to lose.
“If you look at it, Celtic should be red-hot [favourites] but we’re going to win and people just have to deal with that.”
Celtic captain Craig Davies said beating Timaru would have more to do with his team focusing on what they had to do to set, or defend, a total.
Butler said his team had learned from a tough season in 2010-11.
“Last year was always a rebuilding year and the best thing is that we have kept going. We’re finalists here and are near the top of the two-day competition.
“We are a young team and there is a good vibe in the sheds.”
The experienced Kris Howes will return for Timaru, in place of the unavailable Jordy Morrow.
Howes’ tall, medium pace, and lusty hitting could be a major factor, after he guided the team to a Twenty20 semifinal victory with 70 in a one-off appearance last season.
Butler said consistency tonight would go a long way to victory.
The improvement of all-rounder Zane Sanders was an example of how Timaru had shown their consistency.
Sanders has taken 30 wickets at senior level in all competitions this season, and sits third behind Roncalli College’s Tahir Afridi and Celtic’s Sam Carlaw on the bowling table, while offering some middle-order fight with the bat.
Butler said he was not concerned about Celtic rolling his team for 48 in the second innings of a two-day game last Saturday.
Meanwhile, Davies said there was a relaxed feeling in the camp.
He said 160 was probably a par score but with the right conditions, anything was possible.
“If you look at the T20 scores over the season, you’d probably say 90 was par, but 160 with short boundaries and a fast outfield should be achievable.”
He said the big hitters in Timaru’s middle order, such as Howes and possibly Tim Mackle, should he play, had the ability to turn a game.
He said the rotation policy with the Celtic batsmen seemed to have paid off.
Celtic will be without opening bowler Grant Watt, who will need six weeks to recover from a broken thumb after dropping a catch against Timaru last week.
Glenn Matthews and Dan Laming were likely to take up the fast bowling load, according to Davies.
The first ball will be bowled at 5.30pm.