Temuka and Timaru secured crucial victories to keep the pressure on Celtic at the top of the South Canterbury senior competition on Saturday.
Temuka fought off a gallant Star side by 16 runs at Temuka Oval, while Timaru downed Waimate by 38 runs at Knottingley Park on the back of 51 from captain Zane Sanders.
Star had a golden opportunity to win their first game of the new 20-25-over format, but let it slip away.
In pursuit of Temuka’s 147, Star needed a run a ball from the last five overs with five wickets remaining.
However, the visitors were unable to capitalise on their strong position and did not hit a boundary in the last 30 balls, which effectively cost them the game.
Both teams had batsmen who threatened to play match-defining knocks, but in the end no-one got past 50.
Neither side was helped by an outfield which resembled a paddock.
The length of the grass appeared more conducive to a rugby match than a cricket game, with the ball rolling to a quick stop, and not allowing any value for ground strokes all game.
Temuka opening batsman Johnny Geddis provided the early momentum in the first 20 overs.
He struck five boundaries and a six on his way to 42.
After hitting two boundaries off spinner Henry Race, he tried for another and was caught by Matt Brown as a result.
Temuka finished on 77 for two after their first 20 overs.
Star’s response was slow, but they had a deliberate approach to keep wickets in hand.
They struck only one boundary in the first 20 overs on their way to 41 for one.
Temuka had a 36-run lead and a the attacking flair of former South Canterbury captain Richie Preston to come.
Preston’s time with the bat was destructive, as he hit seven fours and a six in his innings of 49.
Just as he was opening his shoulders, he charged down the pitch to Race, missed the ball and was gladly stumped by Danny Campbell. His dismissal spun the Temuka middle-order into a state of disarray.
The home team lost their last six wickets for three runs, thanks largely to Race’s figures of four for 22. The dramatic fightback from Star left them needing 107 from 25 overs with nine wickets remaining to claim the win.
Veteran batsman Paul Arkinstall went about lifting Star’s pedestrian run rate.
He hit three boundaries and a six on his way to 32 before a rush of blood to the head saw him gift his wicket to the medium pace of Kevin Kerse.
Dunedin-based all-rounder Blair Brown added a bright 23, but Star lacked a big score from one of the top-order to win the match for them.
The new batsmen were unable to find the middle of the bat fast enough to keep the run rate at a manageable level.
Kerse finished with two wickets, while stalwart Kevin Teahen grabbed three late wickets to snuff out any chance of a Star victory.
Timaru were never seriously challenged once they posted 200 against Waimate.
Sanders hit 51 and opener Josh Smallridge added 48.
Connor Farrell took four for 28 for the home team.
Waimate captain Glen Drake continued his consistent summer by making 31, while Murray Prattley added 33. However, Waimate failed to get a batsman to match Sanders’ efforts and fell well short of their target.