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Two defeats in row for defending Hope Cup champions

High School Old Boys have had a tough start for the second cricket season in a row.

In November of 2020, champions-in-waiting the Bollywood HSOB Presidents began with a loss by seven wickets to two-time defending champs Ngatapa (and then went down by 27 runs to an Old Boys’ Rugby outfit good enough to win 12 games on the trot). Three weeks ago OBR got the better of HSOB by 53 runs and on Saturday, the all-student Campion College first 11 beat them by nine runs in a nail-biter.

HSOB hold the hallowed Hope Cup, and life at the top can be tough.

“It was good to see the youngsters have a win but for us Jake Theron, with 1-27 from six overs and 34 not-out, was the only stand-out,” said HSOB game-day captain Jeff Chambers, of the thriller against Campion.

The Presidents’ regular skipper Ollie Needham gave a gracious but honest take on the upset of the competition to date: “Campion played solid cricket: Hamish Swann made 33 in 71 balls at No.4 and bowled in excellent areas for 1-12 off three overs.

“In contrast, we gifted them 54 extras. Rhys Grogan was outstanding with the new ball for 5-24: too good for our top order. We lost quick wickets and never recovered. Rhys was well-supported by Taye McGuinness (2-22 off 3.5 overs) and their other seamers.”

Absent a coin-toss, Campion captain Liam Spring chose to bat on Harry Barker Reserve ground 4. Spring (19 off 19) and gloveman Daniel Baillie put on 39 for the first wicket, the biggest partnership of the match; Grogan and Swann shared a 37-run stand for the fourth wicket. Campion reached 131-9 in 30 completed overs.

Then came Grogan. Of his five wickets, Anil Kumar, ‘keeper Isaac Hughes and Marius Weyers were bowled, and Yegan Lanka and Jeff Chambers were adjudged leg-before-wicket by umpire James Raroa. Grogan’s hat-trick in the third over put HSOB in a hole; they were dismissed for 122 in 23.5 overs, nine runs short of the target. Theron’s eighth-wicket partnership of 33 with Needham (19) from 67 to 100 was critical in the context of the game.

Grogan was Campion’s Most Valuable Player, with Theron having that distinction for HSOB.

Cricket captains are like deputy principals in that they have to be able to manage people.

And Craig Christophers (DP at Lytton High School, skipper of Rawhiti Legal OBR, who beat the Gisborne Boys’ High School second 11 by four wickets) knows people.

“Boys’ High looked sharp, were well-organised, had a great attitude on Saturday. First-up, opening bat Bekko Page (13) and No.3 Nathaniel Fearnley (16) applied themselves against a decent pace attack. Later, when their bowlers pitched the ball up to swing it, they were dangerous,” said Christophers.

“Bekko took two good catches and — having taken six wickets — the young team almost had victory in their sights.

Had Gisborne Boys’ scored another 20 or 30 runs, things could have been very interesting.”

OBR captain Christophers won the toss on HB3, a good deck with a bit in the pitch for the bowlers. GBHS lost Kelan Bryant (2) off the last ball of the first over, bowled by Lloyd van Zyl (2-17-6) but Page and Fearnley then put on 38 for the second wicket, Gisborne Boys’ biggest stand of the match.

Van Zyl’s new-ball partner, left-armer Sean Henry (2-9-5) generally kept a good angle going across the right-handed batsmen. OBR’s third seamer, veteran Amit Vyas, can make the ball talk but on Saturday never quite settled on his normal tight off-stump line and length from over or around-the-wicket, bowling 16 wides to concede 29 runs in four overs.

Christophers brought himself on in the 11th over: the game changed. With out-swing and a devilishly good slower ball, he took 6-16-5 and the younger team was bundled out for 88 in 25 overs. Christophers bowled well but the shot selection with three of the top-order dismissals was loose.

OBR brought their four-wicket win up off the last ball of the 16th in the run-chase. No.3 Matt McFatter (36) and second-drop Rongomai Smith (24) shared an excellent 40-run partnership, hitting any ball which deserved it hard and long.

Page gave six bowlers an opportunity and all in all, those six were good value. Off-spinner George Gillies (3-14) was the pick of them. He and new-ball bowler Akira Makiri (2-8) bowled three quality overs, Page understanding the need to keep his young bowlers fresh, their spells short, and not allowing the opposition’s big men to get used to them.

Page is well aware that batting for the full complement of 30 overs is a must yet despite that thought his second 11 made a good match effort.

Christophers and Makiri were their respective teams’ Most Valuable Players, with the former moved to describe the officiating as “top shelf”. Umpires James Raroa and Gary Coutts (Senior B Grade), Jason Trowill and Stewart Patrick (Premier Grade) served the game well on Saturday.

Horouta needed more than 124 to beat Ngatapa.

The Waka bats, bowls and fields as a good unit. They were well-led by Billy Morse in Week 4. But they were all-out for 124 in 24.1 overs and those 35 unused deliveries, had they yielded just 25 more runs, truly might have set the cat among the pigeons.

“I’m happy with the enthusiasm we played with, though in the first innings we struggled to build partnerships, collapsing from 57-4 to 57-7. Getting to 124 was a recovery, if you look at it that way,” said Morse.

“For Ngatapa, Grant Walsh (4-12-4, a run-a-ball 33 from No.1) and Zac Borrie (unbeaten 32 from 34 at first-drop) were on fire with bat and ball and their new man, quickie Thor Crombie, had a great cameo with 2-21-3. Ngatapa were, as always, good guys to play against.”

Morse won the toss on the practice wicket, chose to bat on the smallest of the Reserve’s five grounds, and three balls into the second over, were on Cloud 9. Vishal Singh (14) hit the first three balls of Borrie’s first over for four, but Ben Holden’s Ngatapa never panicked.

Big left-armer Will Faulks (2-20-5) wheeled away as first-change; cramping the batsmen, he and Walsh squeezed a Horouta batting order absent ex-Northern Spirit off-spinner Mel Knight, who was watching daughter Kayley play for the Northern Districts ladies in the national one-day tournament at Levin.

Aman Kamboj made 46 off 32, including eight boundaries, batting at No.9. Aside from the million-dollar swing style of Vishal Singh, he was Ngatapa’s most dangerous opponent with the bat until he was well-caught by Chris Hurlstone off the bowling of the Caps’ game-day captain Ben Holden (1-27-3.1 overs).

Ngatapa won the game by seven wickets in 21.2 overs.

The Waka’s left-arm orthodox spinner Clarence Campbell was their most successful bowler with 2-25-6, who relished the rare opportunity to bowl at his natural left-handed batsmen: he rattled the timber of both opener Richard Briant (13) and second-drop Ryan West (7).

Holden said: “I’d give our team performance overall as eight out of a possible 10. Walshie was superb with his consistency as a bowler.

“Bring on next week.”

Walsh and Campbell were their teams’ MVPs.

Outstanding: Rhys Grogan took a hat trick in the third over and five wickets overall, earning himself the title of Campion’s Most Valuable Player. File picture