An outstanding bowling spell by Grant Watt – in his first Hawke Cup match for more than 10 years – led South Canterbury to outright victory over North Otago in Timaru yesterday.
The veteran bowler took six wickets for 13 off his 10.1 overs in North Otago’s second innings – and at one stage had four wickets for two runs.
The first day of the Hawke Cup elimination match at the Aorangi Oval started to plan after James Laming won the toss for South Canterbury and asked North Otago to bat.
Alex McDuff, in his Hawke Cup debut, rewarded his selection and captain’s decision by removing two North Otago batsmen with nine runs on the board.
Ben Watson joined in and North Otago were in more trouble at 15-3.
Watson would go on to be the leading bowler with 4-43.
North Otago then fought back with a 66-run partnership between Duncan Drew and Ben Cant before James Blackstock’s second spell removed two in quick succession as North Otago slumped to 81-5.
After that wickets fell reasonably regularly around Drew who was eighth out for a solid 175-ball 56 with the total only 130.
Sam Carlaw put the brakes on at one end, not conceding a run until his sixth over, but was not rewarded with a wicket.
Unfortunately, despite another wicket soon after, the last-wicket nemesis that South Canterbury encountered against Mid Canterbury earlier in the season again raised its head as North Otago with a few lusty blows managed to get through to 171 before Blackstock stopped the rot with his third scalp. But North Otago had a total which would prove to be competitive.
In reply, South Canterbury also lost both openers cheaply before Prabodha Arthavidu and Jacob Naylor settled in for a partnership of 70 for the third wicket.
Arthavidu was dominating the bowling and scoring at better than a run a ball, even while facing former New Zealand opening bowler David Sewell and brought up his 50 off 47 deliveries.
But just when observers were discussing possibilities, he played an uncharacteristic pull shot and was caught off the gloves in the slip cordon.
Naylor by now was looking solid but struggled to get someone to stay long enough in partnership with him as he was the seventh batsman dismissed two shy of his half-century.
There was no wag to the South Canterbury tail and after at one stage being 104-4 they were dismissed for 138, almost the identical shortfall the last-wicket partnership by North Otago produced.
North Otago survived the three overs before stumps on the first day without adding any runs to their lead.
On day two South Canterbury set about getting back into the match. In the third over of the morning, McDuff produced a caught and bowled delivery to remove the nightwatchman and three overs later Blackstock removed the other opener to have North Otago 13-2.
This led to a 40-run partnership between Jeremiah Shields and Stefan Grobler before the introduction of Watt changed the game. Watt bowled not only incredibly tightly, conceding 13 off his 10.1 overs, at one stage having 4-2 off 5 overs, but removed batsmen 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 in succession and then picked up Sewell, the 10th and final wicket as North Otago were dismissed for 100.
Blackstock chimed in as well to pick up a well-earned six wickets for the match and suddenly South Canterbury had two sessions to score 134 runs for victory.
Sam Porter’s poor run continued, out in the first over, but then the two form South Canterbury batsmen this season – Laming and Arthavidu – added 50 for the next wicket.
Laming was eventually out to the leg-spin of Grobler for 32 but South Canterbury were now on a more solid footing.
Grobler picked up four wickets in succession, removing Naylor (5), Carlaw (0) and then Arthavidu for 38 and at 75-5 the South Canterbury innings suddenly looked much like the first innings as the middle order again failed to fire.
Wicketkeeper Willie Wright then found a solid ally in Watson on his way to an unbeaten 42 and the winning of the match.
It was a relieved South Canterbury side as the outright was secured before tea. While first-innings points keep North Otago at the top of the table with a match to play, South Canterbury have every chance, if they win at Central Otago next weekend.