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Senior B teams ready to go

Experience and youth blended in spirited competition
DOWN THE LEG SIDE: Gisborne Boys’ High School (2) captain Bekko Page bats against Ngatapa in the Senior B cricket competition. Page has been promoted to the first 11 but hasn’t forgotten his teammates in the second 11.Picture by Paul Rickard

Poverty Bay club cricket’s craftiest minds are back on the job.

The captains of the eight sides vying for the Senior B title are of one mind: their players have soaked up quite enough sun.

Next Saturday, the 14-week quest for the Hope Cup resumes with Round 9 of the 30-over competition.

Defending champions Bollywood Stars High School Old Boys Presidents, under wicketkeeper Ollie Needham, won only one game before Christmas.

For them to be finalists again on March 12 would require the biggest form turnaround imaginable, but hope springs eternal.

“Our goal remains to make the semis but we’ll need to play well to do that, especially in key games, and put our learnings from 2021 into practice,” Needham said.

“On the field, we’ve been impressed and humbled by the improvement of all our opponents since last season. Although early on we played below standard, we’ve improved steadily. Cricket provides an important balance between work and family in our lives.

‘The camaraderie in the club allows us to support guys like Marius Weyers and Yegan Lanka, South African lads. For two years, they’ve been separated from their wives and children because they couldn’t relocate to New Zealand — a result of border restrictions due to Covid-19.

“Marius couldn’t wait any longer and recently was reunited with his family in South Africa.”

Needham is No.4 on the batting leaderboard at an average of 26 and has come in at 2, 9, 4 and 1 in the team’s cause.

Teammate Anil Kumar’s positive approach to wielding the willow has brought 90 runs from 87 balls. He is No.8 on the list, and his method speaks to Presidents’ bent to play their shots whatever the circumstances.

Rawhiti Legal OBR, whom the Presidents beat by 25 runs in last year’s final, had until December 18 led the competition, the handsome margin of 0.0034 on net run-rate separating OBR and Civil Project Solutions Ngatapa Green Caps at the top of the table. Both teams had won five games of six heading into Round 8.

Ngatapa beat OBR by one wicket in that titanic struggle.

OBR “media liaison” Matt McFatter talked about the way the black-and-whites played under game-day captains Craig Christophers, Jannie Jacobs and Thom Berry.

“We enjoy cricket but more to the point, we enjoy the company of friends, bombing the boundary,” he said.

“We play and live the true OBR spirit to the end.”

Jacobs is placed fifth on the batting leaderboard. He scored the only century of the competition so far with his unbeaten 126 from 59 balls, with 15 boundaries (11 sixes), against HSOB in the season opener at Nelson Park on October 30.

Left-armer George Reynolds, who took 6-21 in his last outing, sits atop the bowling leaderboard as the No.1 wicket-taker with 18 wickets. His new-ball partner-in-crime, Lloyd van Zyl, sits just outside the top 10 with seven wickets.

Well-utilised by whichever captain OBR run with on the day, these two bowlers are the point of the sword for a powerful unit.

The Ngatapa Green Caps, led by Grant Walsh, have been competitive and have played their cricket with a sense of urgency this season.

“We enjoy the Hope Cup,” Walsh said.

“It’s a good mix of teams and we’re happy with the squad we have, where we’re at.

“We have variety in our bowling attack. First-up, Ryan West and Zac Borrie put pace and seam pressure on the opposition with the new ball. Then we have left-armers Will Faulks and Ben Holden, Thor Crombie and Harry White can change things up and Mike Gibson also bowls tight medium-pace.

“Finally, we have three off-spin options in Jeremy Castles, Charles Morrison and me. There’s plenty to call on there, to suit the wicket and game situation.”

Walsh rings bowling changes constantly and is perhaps the only Senior B skipper who adjusts the field not just over by over, but even on a ball-by-ball basis. He comes in third on the bowling leaderboard with 12 wickets, while West at No.7 has eight scalps to date. West tops the batting leaderboard with 245 runs, including two half-centuries, at an average of 123. He has been not out four times in six games.

Mel Knight is at the helm of Horouta Te Waka and she’s also played a huge role in growing the women’s game.

Her daughter Kayley’s progression from local junior cricket to the Northern Braves is one thing, but for Knight senior to found the Tairawhiti Women’s Cricket Club — a stepping stone for talents such as Rubi Perano, Grace Levy and Grace Kuil — and then as a former first-class player guide them on the field points to a well mapped-out investment in time.

The Knights and Aman Kamboj — twice in the case of Kamboj — all made half-centuries before Christmas. Kamboj is placed second on the grade’s batting leaderboard with a high score of 75no.

Much-improved seamer Levy (nine wickets), cunning left-arm orthodox spinner Clarence Campbell (eight wickets) and Mel Knight (seven wickets) rank fifth, eighth and 10th respectively on the bowling leaderboard.

“I’m pretty happy with our bowling,” Knight Snr said.

“In the field, we’ve got to take our chances. As with any team, we want to score more runs.

“I like the atmosphere at Horouta, and that we play for each other.”

Campion College coach Mark Naden values a strong team culture, too.

His first 11 is a youthful one. With Liam Spring having played his last game for the college in Round 8 (a seven-wicket loss to Horouta on December 18), Year 11 student Hamish Swann is Campion’s new skipper.

Naden said: “We’ve loved playing in the Hope Cup with a team made up solely of students against opposition who support our boys in their skill development. I can’t wait to see what they might achieve in seasons ahead.”

Some of Campion’s finest are already performing at a good level, with Rhys Grogan having borrowed the No.1 bowler’s crown from OBR’s George Reynolds in Round 6. Grogan has 14 wickets to date this season and has received excellent support from Swann and Luke Hurlstone, a Year 13 student in 2021. Swann and Hurlstone both have seven wickets.

Swann bowls tidily at medium-pace and is reliable. He keeps to a disciplined line and channel.

“We have cricketers new to the game coming through and we will set new challenges for our more experienced players,” Swann said.

“Everyone is looking forward to stepping up and filling the space that Liam and Luke have left.”

Gisborne Boys’ High School (2) captain Bekko Page, newly promoted to the first 11, has thought long and hard about where his peers are, as cricketers and as a group.

“Our bowling is good, although we always look to be more consistent,” he said.

“With batting, attitude is important. You can’t go out there thinking that you’re going to get out early, or you will.

“The boys have to want to win but also believe that they can win.”

Akira Makiri is No.4 on the bowling leaderboard with 11 wickets. He took 6-27 against Horouta on December 4, and off-spinner George Gillies took a very good 4-11 from six overs against Campion. Gillies is in at No.9 on the bowling list with seven wickets.

With the elevation of Page, left-arm paceman Lukas Fry and Kelan Bryant (placed ninth on the batting list with a high score of 54 against Horouta on December 4 and an average of 21), the young Gisborne Boys’ High team must take stock of the good passages of play and great moments that they have been part of.

Every captain in the grade knows that a gutsy match-effort from the team can — with a strong individual performance or two — swing a close game their club’s way.

Soon, observers will see the edge that effective leadership from captains and senior players can give.

Next weekend, from 2pm, Mark Naden’s Campion will host Mel Knight’s Horouta on the practice wicket at Harry Barker Reserve. The Ollie Needham-led Presidents will meet Gisborne Boys’ High (2) on HBR 4 and another heavyweight battle between OBR and Ngatapa will be fought on HBR 3.