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Secondary schools show rising talent in Super 8

It promises to be a magnificent week of cricket at the Harry Barker Reserve.

The Super 8 Schools first 11 50-over tournament sees 2021 S8 champions Palmerston North Boys' High School, traditional powerhouse Hamilton BHS and the always-competitive Napier BHS in Pool 1.

Rotorua BHS' ongoing non-attendance sees PNBHS without a game on Monday. The draw pits Hamilton against Napier on ground 1. Napier plays Palmerston North, HBR 2, Tuesday, and Hamilton v PNBHS is set for Wednesday.

In Pool 2 this Monday, Tauranga Boys' College plays hosts Gisborne BHS on HBR 2 and New Plymouth faces Hastings on HBR 4. On Tuesday, New Plymouth is to clash with the home team on HBR 1 and Hastings have Tauranga on HBR 4. Gisborne v Hastings on HBR 3, Tauranga v New Plymouth on HBR 1 is the Pool 2 fare on Wednesday.

All of the games in pool play and Thursday play-off games for first place on HBR 2, third place on HBR 1 and fifth place on HBR 4 are scheduled to start at 10.30am.

Palmerston North – who won the first tournament in 1998 – won their first title in a decade last year, beating Tauranga by five wickets at Cornwall Park in Napier. PNBHS coach Scott Davidson, who is in his sixth year with the side, is working with a mix of experienced and young players. Davidson said:

“We're hoping to back up last year's Super 8 win. We have the side to do it – we just need to play well.”

Since it began, Hamilton have dominated the competition with 12 championships, having claimed their first Super 8 crown in 1999.

Gisborne Boys' under Malcolm Trowell were placed eighth in 2021 yet earned the respect of their opponents: they began the hard way, going down to Tauranga by 201 runs, then lost to New Plymouth by seven wickets. On Day 3, Hastings beat them by eight wickets and in Game 4, a combined Hastings-Napier BHS second 11 seized the day by 65 runs.

Through it all, there were high points for GBHS: they had TBC 3-18 6.3 overs into the first innings; had they held onto either of the chances behind given by then Tauranga captain Liam Collett, that good young player would not have made 112 and Bay of Plenty's finest would not have reached 328-8.

On Day 2, Te-Reimana Gray – who had been on a hat-trick v TBC – made 40, and Travis O'Rourke showed fight in a hard-hit knock of 24. Left-arm seamer O'Rourke took 1-12 in Game 3 v Hastings, while Year 13 pacemen Max Briant (3-32) and Matt Foster (2-22) returned Gisborne Boys' best bowling figures in the play-off for seventh.

Kelan Bryant, a natural batsman, budding all-rounders Lukas Fry, Bekko Page and off-spinner George Gillies are the new players in the GBHS side. Captain Nathan Trowell's positive frame of mind is one that his players share: “We're keen for the Super 8 tournament and can see ourselves finishing in the top four or six – our goal is to prove that we're capable of good, solid performances.”

Gisborne Boys' 1.9m wicket-keeper Sebastian Wilson needs to convert his 20 and 28 of the last two weeks in local DJ Barry Cup competition into half-centuries at Super 8 level, while spearhead of the pace attack Cohen Loffler and Trowell junior need to create pressure first-up with tight line and length bowling.

Dylan Foster is GBHS' leg-spinner: where pre-Shane Warne, there were few exponents of that art playing cricket, Hastings' Kulwant Singh, New Plymouth's William Jull, Tauranga's Finn O'Brien-O'Loan, Palmerston North's Fred McVerry and Napier's Hamish James, Hunter Kinney and Zach Forster all bowl leg-breaks while Hamilton, which is traditionally strong in finger-spin (Mitchell Santner, Josef Walker and Mattie Thomas of the early 2000s spring to mind), have always backed their spinners up with awesome fielding.

Hamilton coach former Black Cap Chris Kuggeleijn's first 11 is led by a sensational all-rounder in Payton Spencer, who is unlikely to bowl due to injury but is a match-winner with the bat.

The son of All Black No.951 first-five Carlos, the younger Spencer has been inspirational for HBHS here before. Specifically for the five-time reigning Super 8 rugby champions at the GHS Rectory, where he was a try-scorer and the visitors' Most Valuable Player last year.

Kuggeleijn loves coming to Gisborne (“We've got an exciting mix of players, and this'll be their first hit-out”), and Tauranga coach Tim Clarke – a teammate of New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson in the national Gillette Cup and Super 8-winning TBC side of 2005 – has said of his young side that they expect to spend five great days here.

New Plymouth, under ex-Namibian international JB Burger, will bring a mature group on tour. Burger has seven Year 13s in his crew, under their in-form skipper, the tall batsman Jacob Mitchell. The future of Super 8 cricket in Hawke's Bay is in good hands with Mike Pawson at Napier, Dan Harper at Hastings. Harper wants fielding to be the point of difference for his outfit, led as they will be by an astute Year 12 in Tom Hall. Pawson, who turned out for Central Districts 54 times, has Charlie Geange as the tip of the spear in Napier's balanced attack.

The Poverty Bay Cricket Association officials to stand in the tournament include PBCA umpires' manager Jason Trowill and his Premier Grade colleague Stewart Patrick.

The Reserve pitches are, at their best, firm wickets with decent pace offering even bounce. For capable bowlers, there will be sideways movement early on in an innings here and these decks take turn, if the spinners on show operate at a certain clip.

The games will be played under the domestic Ford Trophy first-class playing conditions.

Super 8 first 11 cricket is superb viewing for young and old: it has only been six years since NPBHS' opener Josh Borrell scored a stunning 107 not-out on the number four ground in the last S8 tourney held here, hitting eight 6s from the last 10 balls (after taking 5-37 in the first innings) he faced.

The temperatures for the first two days are expected to reach 24-25 degrees, with the high end on Wednesday and Thursday being 27-28 degrees.

Poverty Bay's director of cricket Dave Castle said: “We're extremely excited to see the best cricketers in the North Island come to Harry Barker Reserve for four days of exciting cricket. We have done, and will continue to do, everything that we can to support GBHS with their hosting duties.”

Gisborne Boys' High School principal Andrew Turner extended this welcome to the visiting schools, officials and supporters;

“It is our absolute pleasure to be hosting this year's Super 8 Cricket tournament in Gisborne. Our schools having been working together for 25 years to provide sporting and cultural opportunities to inspire our young men. 2022 will be no different despite the challenges of the pandemic.”

GISBORNE BOYS' HIGH SCHOOL: Kelan Bryant, Luke Fisher, Dylan Foster, Lukas Fry, George Gillies, Cohen Loffler, Travis O'Rourke, Bekko Page, Alex Shanks, Adam Situ, Nathan Trowell (captain), Sebastian Wilson (wicket-keeper),

HAMILTON: Lucky Devireddy, Liam Hayman, Angus Henry (wkp), Daniel Kibby, Tom Martin, Logan McKay, Eli Parker, Angus Reeves, Bradley Rowell, Ewald Schreuder, Chris Seel, Payton Spencer (c).

HASTINGS: Seb Carlisle (wkp), Josh Doran, Koji Hardgrave-Abe (c), James Harper, Michael Lansdown, Brodie Lewis, Kian Mitchell, Wills Moroney, Jacob Rameka, Brayden Reeve, Kulwant Singh, William Taylor.

NAPIER: Oliver Beale, Jacob Cotter, Finn Diphoorn, Zach Forster, Charlie Geange, Daniel Geange, Thomas Hall (c), Hamish James, Hunter Kinney, Ryan McNatty, Charlie Pawson (wkp), Andrew Rawnsley.

NEW PLYMOUTH: Braydon Baker, Fianlay Barnes, Riley Bettington, Hrishi Bolar, Hakeem Faider, Joshua Gard, Logan Hislop, William Jull, Jacob Mitchell (c), Reeve Nelley, Chester Oldfield, Hugo Roy (wkp).

PALMERSTON NORTH: Saim Ahmed, Ethan Campbell, Jett Donald-Charnley, Jacob Duker, Aadesh Ganugapati, Sam Kennett, Fred McVerry, Jaiden Meyer (c), Van Prenter (wkp), Ethan Robinson, Jerome Robinson, Matt Rowe.

TAURANGA BOYS' COLLEGE: Troy Barnett, Sam Clode, Darcy Collett (c), Aiden Green, Seb Heath (wkp), Jack Jones, Loughie Keaney, Logan Murray, Finn O'Brien-O'Loan, Harsh Patel, Luke Scrimgeour, Billy Syme.

WICKET HUNTING: The Super 8 Tournament begins this week with Nathan Trowell leading his team for glory at Harry Barker Reserve.Picture by Liam Clayton