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OBR will rebound from setback


Be in no doubt that OBR will get back on track.

And Craig Christophers’ Rawhiti Legal Old Boys Rugby — hitherto Senior B club cricket’s unbeaten competition leaders — will use tomorrow’s Round 14 clash with Siteworx Horouta to do so.

OBR still lead the competition, on 36 points. Next are Civil Project Solutions Ngatapa Green Caps on 30, Horouta on 21, Bollywood High School Old Boys Presidents on 18, Campion College on 12 and Gisborne Boys’ High School (2) on 0.

Tomorrow OBR play Horouta on the Harry Barker Reserve practice wicket, Ngatapa play Boys’ High (2) on HBR 3 and HSOB Presidents play Campion on HBR 4.

All games in the last round-robin start at 2pm, with Gary Coutts to umpire on HBR 4, and first-season umpires Martin Bennett and James Raroa standing together on the practice block.

Ngatapa vanquished OBR by seven wickets in last week’s top-of-the-table stoush but the sporting mentality in New Zealand holds that such a loss has come at “just the right time”, that “it was a wake-up call”. Classic tall poppy syndrome perhaps, yet no Poverty Bay club cricket team would be more likely to bounce back in this situation than OBR.

Christophers, the competition’s most prolific batsman (389 runs at an average of 78 with five half-centuries) and his closely knit unit have taken their lateral thinking one step further this week, with a “pong-pong” training technique to improve hand-eye co-ordination in the field.

Christophers said: “Horouta are in form — they’re fresh off a win last week, so we’re wary of them.”

OBR beat Horouta by 95 runs on November 21, despite the absence of the well-performed OBR skipper on that day.

Andrew Bristow, a fine off-side player, made 52 at No.3, and Horouta were then dismissed for 93 in 22.1 overs.

Bristow the medium-pacer bowled one ball — to Horouta No.10 Hasantha Withanage — and rattled the stumps to finish the game.

OBR won the Round 9 rematch by nine wickets. Where spearhead Lloyd van Zyl (3-9) and flighty leg-spinner Mana Taumaunu (3-35) were the destroyers for OBR first time around, on this occasion it was George Whitehead (3-10) who hobbled Horouta.

A second-wicket stand of 74 between first-drop Jannie Jacobs (45) and left-hander Peter Stewart (25) saw OBR home on the site of tomorrow’s clash — the practice wicket.

The hockey turf’s placement is such that the practice wicket boundaries are wickedly short straight, and restricting the strong OBR batting line-up is made that much more difficult.

Knight relishing the tag of underdog

Horouta must make big runs tomorrow. Their captain, Mel Knight, steered the ship to victory by six wickets last week (with 22 not out, 64 being the target score) and has one of the best cricket brains in Senior B cricket. She and fellow veteran Greg Taylor always look to bat through, but they may also have to push things along.

Horouta’s biggest total this season — 186 against Boys’ High in Round 2 — would give The Waka’s bowlers a fighting chance to defend against, or attack, an outfit who have been bowled out to date only three times this season.

And while it is unlikely that OBR will permit swing bowler Piumal Madasanka and left-arm orthodox spinner Clarence Campbell to take 3-7 (as both did a week ago against the Presidents), inspired performances of that calibre — against an all-conquering team — could see lightning strike twice in two weeks.

Knight’s daughter and New Zealand under-19 representative Kayley and her fellow Northern Districts u19 pace bowler Grace Levy are also key components in Horouta’s arsenal.

Mel Knight relishes the tag of underdogs.

“OBR should win,” she said.

“If they don’t, it’s a huge upset.”

No matter what happens tomorrow, Ngatapa have a 2 v 3 semifinal to play next week.

For the Dylan Foster-led Gisborne Boys’ High School second 11, this season has produced worthy individual performances, and improvement as a group despite their lack of a win.

And despite a great-hearted offer by Ngatapa captain Mike Gibson (whose club are great supporters of cricket, young cricketers in particular) to mix the teams up, Foster and company will stand on their own two feet, and — as fair cricketers of all ages have always done — lie where they fall.

Foster, like Noah Torrance-Cribb as captain before him, has led a team containing only one senior student (Daniel Watts, Year 12) since Christmas, in an upbeat manner.

“Ngatapa are a strong team and we’re looking forward to our last game of the season,” Foster said.

“While we haven’t had a win, it’s been fun. We’ve learned a lot and we’ll try to do our best again tomorrow.”

Boys’ High came within four runs of Campion College last Saturday; a fortnight ago first-drop Kelan Bryant made 55 against Horouta; Round 11 action had left-arm pace bowler Lukas Fry take 2-10 from three overs at OBR’s expense; and in Round 10, wicketkeeper Alex Shanks impressed HSOB Presidents with a busy knock of 47.

Tomorrow young left-arm orthodox spinner Riker Rolls and Year 10 all-rounder Bekko Page return. Rolls took 2-33 off six overs against Horouta on debut. Rolls, Page, the Makiri twins Akira and Keanu, John Broad and George Gillies have all stood out at times.

In perhaps the best piece of B Grade cricket produced before Christmas, veteran Green Caps all-rounder Grant Walsh — who had previously left his crease twice to drive off-spinner Gillies through cover for four — was stumped by Shanks on his third foray, for 48.

Walsh, Charles Morrison — a wonderful flighter of the ball — and the skilful Jeremy Castles make up Ngatapa’s trio of off-spinners. And the pace attack — with Ryan West and Will Faulks — is in good hands. Gloveman Simon Wilson bats well, as do left-hander Richard Briant and skipper Gibson.

For Boys’ High, strokemakers Bryant and Watts have key batting roles. Leftie Kavindu Withanage, too, is in form (40 on Wednesday, 20 not out last Saturday) and with the semifinals next week, all batsmen who have scored runs for their teams in the quest for the Hope Cup should treat these as their most important innings of this season.

Campion College have a huge chance to make it five wins for the season.

Under Liam Spring, they have beaten Gisborne Boys’ High three times — once by default — this season, and have had a four-wicket triumph over the second-placed Ngatapa Green Caps for the boilover of Round 7.

Darryl Dunn made an unbeaten 88 from No.3 and player-coach Mark Naden made 39, batting at No.8, in that match — but in a magnificent gesture, for the second week in a row, the college will field an all-student team.

The vote of batting confidence in Spring, his opening partner Hamish Swann, Reuben Swanepoel, Luke Hurlstone and Rhys Grogan, is enormous — but justified.

Swanepoel has made two Challenge Cup 50s and a B Grade 50, and Spring and Shanks shared a 111-run stand with half-centuries for both two days ago.

They may not now have a pace bowler of the calibre of Blake Marshall (3-30 in the win against Ngatapa), but his new-ball partner Luke Hurlstone — who took 3-36 against Ngatapa) remains.

Naden said that the team had trained well last night and that his players knew what was required ahead of this clash with HSOB.

Presidents captain Ollie Needham’s focus remains, as ever, on improvement and his players’ enjoyment of their cricket. In Round 13 they were bowled out for fewer than 100 for the third time this season.

They have fired at full tilt only once, with 300-3 against GBHS on an artificial wicket at Nelson Park. Second-drop Jeff Chambers (113) and opener Matt Jefferd (63) both retired that day, but neither should consider doing that tomorrow.

Fifth-placed Campion — like the sixth-placed Boys’ High second 11 — don’t need a hand up.