Outstanding Week For Northern Districts Cricket
Sunday 13 March 2011, 1:16PM
First the Yahoo!Xtra Northern Knights pulled off a record-setting Plunket Shield victory in Whangarei, now Hamilton have wrenched the coveted Hawke Cup off Marlborough in Blenheim in an exceptional week for Northern Districts cricket supporters.
Hamilton wrapped up their three-day Hawke Cup challenge with almost a day to spare, beating Marlborough by an innings and eight runs in Blenheim this morning.
Young off-spinner Joe Walker, who had taken a devastating six for 33 in the first innings, was again amongst the wickets at the end, finishing with a fine match haul of 10 wickets for 90.
Yahoo!Xtra Northern Knight and fellow off-spinner Anton Devcich and teenaged Northern Districts A batsman Mitchell Santner were Walker's chief supporters in the bowling attack, Santner taking his third wicket to end Marlborough's second innings at 173.
Earlier, Hamilton captain Keir Bettley had led from the front in the challengers' innings, top-scoring with 81, closely followed by Devcich's 70.
Having been embarrassed in their first innings for 144, the 181-run lead proved all too much for Marlborough - a side that included former Central Stag Brendon Diamanti and former All Black and Central Districts age group rep Leon MacDonald - who paid the price in their second innings as they turned to attacking shots in a last-ditch attempt to grab outright points and retain the Cup.
As the match was the final Hawke Cup interzone challenge for the summer, Hamilton now retain the prized trophy (cricket's version of the Ranfurly Shield, contested by provincial or "minor" associations nationally) for the rest of the year, with the zone challenges beginning afresh next season.
Just two days earlier, the Yahoo!Xtra Northern Knights completed a memorable win over the Wellington Firebirds on the last day of their first-class Plunket Shield match at Whangarei's Cobham Oval. With their backs against the wall after giving the Firebirds a 171-run lead and two points for the first innings. Wellington declared their second innings at 212/4 late on day three - banking on further Knights batting woes and some turn in the slow pitch to see them through to an outright.
But Yahoo!Xtra Northern Knights openers Brad Wilson and BJ Watling turned the tables on the Firebirds in spectacular fashion, settling in with ease to build a match-winning, new Northern Districts record opening partnership against all teams of 274 runs.
Both Wilson (151) and Watling (164 not out) surpassed their previous best first-class scores in the innings, with Hamish Marshall joining Watling for the last rites and adding a cracking unbeaten half-century as they hunted down the last of the 384 runs required for a shock nine-wicket victory and a vital six points from the key round six match.
The Yahoo!Xtra Northern Knights, defending champions in the Plunket Shield, are now just two points behind leaders the Central Stags and play competition cellar-dwellers the Auckland Aces in Hamilton this week.