OPINION: It is my belief South Canterbury can win the Hawke Cup this weekend but the team will have to perform at maximum capacity.
By Timaru Herald reporter Jacob Page
The three-day challenge match against holders Bay of Plenty, at Rotorua’s Smallbone Park, which starts today will be the rarest of opportunities to win the top prize in New Zealand minor association cricket.
I thought I’d outline what I see as being some of the keys to victory.
Firstly, each player must contribute. The temptation will be to rely on former Northern District’s batsman Nick Horsley for a big score.
He is a quality batsman, as statistics show, however, if the worst-case scenario happens and he is dismissed cheaply, it will be up to the other players to react positively and not drop their heads.
There are batsmen who can score runs.
Ritchie Preston has brought some control and patience to his game this season and already has a gritty century at representative level. Glen Drake made 81 not out last week to show his promise.
The team needs more runs from the Celtic duo of Craig Davies and James Laming.
Davies, in particular, has grossly under-performed this season given his talents and run-making ability at club level.
A shift down the order to No 5 should shield him from the new ball and give him time to get his feet moving.
With a first innings win enough to bring the Hawke Cup home to Timaru, South Canterbury may only need to take 10 wickets.
Englishman Matt Woods is in top form, and while fellow pacemen Craig Hinton and Simon Murphy’s statistics aren’t superb, Hinton is a fiercely competitive bowler but often performs without luck and the support of his fielders.
Murphy has Hawke Cup challenge experience in vast amounts with Canterbury Country. His experience could be just as important as his bowling.
The question will be what impact spinner Sam Carlaw has on proceedings.
Captaincy appeared to negatively affect his bowling earlier this season, and while being tidy with the ball, he hasn’t been anywhere near his best form of the past season or two.
Davies and the yet to be used Drake could also be a factor.
Glenn Matthews could be the wildcard in this whole situation.
South Canterbury’s former premier fast bowler is now the wicketkeeper and a handy lower-order batsman who can accelerate the run-rate. He has to be tidy behind the stumps and take every catching opportunity.
Matthews and former captain Dan Laming should build on any platform the top order gives them.
It will be interesting to see how the team’s fitness holds up.
They play in a club scene where players felt two-day cricket was too long so it was scrapped.
Three days could be a stretch but coach Robin Beeby seems confident his team will be up to the physical demands.
It took South Canterbury 10 attempts to win the trophy which they did for the first and only time in 2000, thanks to a first innings win over Canterbury Country.
They lost it in their first defence against Dunedin Metro which had a side that included the likes of current internationals Mark Richardson and Brendon McCullum.
South Canterbury are hefty underdogs in this challenge, but the pieces are there if the team is willing to make the most of this rare opportunity 13 years in the making.