Nelson earned a Hawke Cup cricket challenge with a narrow victory over Marlborough at Horton Park today.
The visitors chased down Marlborough’s first innings total of 292 with their last pair of batsmen at the wicket, making for a nervous finish to an enthralling encounter.
Nelson batsman Greg Hay plays an elegant drive. Photo Peter Jones
With Marlborough leading the zone standings by a single point going into the match, Nelson needed a first innings win to book themselves a meeting with Hawke Cup holders Canterbury Country next weekend and did just enough to come out on top in a match of fluctuating fortunes.
Heading into the second day, Nelson were 1-1 overnight, having lost opening batsman Thomas Zohrab during the three overs the visitors faced late on Saturday afternoon.
The loss of skipper Brendan Hodgson early on Sunday morning, caught and bowled by medium pacer Bailey Andrews-Kennedy, put them under early pressure but opener Nic Clark and CD regular Greg Hay set about rebuilding the innings.
They took the score to 71 before a Will Smith delivery reared off a good length and caught the shoulder of Hay’s bat.
Just as Marlborough’s hopes rose with the key wicket of Hay, they were soon tempered by a substantial fourth-wicket partnership of 123 between Clark and Harsh Visavadiya.
Both players mixed patience with an ability to dispatch the bad ball as they slowly but surely wrested the initiative away from the home side.
When Andrews-Kennedy finally managed to entice a false shot from Visavadiya, from a short ball, Nelson were well poised on 194-4, needing just 99 runs for victory. However, the dismissal of Clark soon after, lbw to Will Smith for a game-high 86 from 160 balls, again raised the home supporters’ hopes.
Felix Murray and Finn Raxworthy looked to be establishing another notable partnership but both fell before tea, leaving Nelson delicately poised at 239-7.
Enter the experienced Joey O’Connor and David Zohrab, their partnership edging the score to 275 before Zohrab was bowled by Weaver, who claimed the wicket of Dylan Eginton four runs later to send the match right down to the wire.
With Andrews-Kennedy and Weaver running in hard despite a long day in the field, eking out the last 14 runs with one wicket in hand was always going to be a tough proposition. However O’Connor, who smote one superb straight six, and No 11 Ronan Restieaux were up to the task, earning their side a deserved victory under intense pressure.
All the Marlborough medium pacers turned in big stints in hot conditions, Andrews-Kennedy (3-99) getting through 24 overs, Weaver (2-52) 20 overs, Smith (2-67) 19 overs and Jerrym Lamb (1-38) running in for 13 overs.
Marlborough head coach Jarrod Englefield felt his side had put enough runs on the board to get the job done.
“We did bloody well to get ourselves into a position where we could get close to 300. I had confidence in our attack, it was just a matter of staying patient and trying to force a mistake.
“We showed some fight, especially when they had that big partnership, to grab one then another one and from there we just chipped away at them and took it right down to the wire.”
On day one, Englefield said he was disappointed in some of the dismissals of the top order batsmen but applauded the efforts of the mid to lower-order in getting the score to 292.
“I thought we may have got to around 320, which would have been nice, but then we chipped one out before stumps, so it was game on.
“What hurt us today was the first period after lunch when they upped the run rate, which created a momentum swing in their favour and put us under pressure to take wickets.
“Full credit to our [medium pace] bowlers who put in some pretty big shifts today.”
He was happy with the overall effort, suggesting his side had “come together as a team over the last two days”.
“We took it to the wire … one more wicket and the game was ours. Looking back we can pick holes in where we thought we could have done better but unfortunately we couldn’t pull it off and they did … to my guys it’s full credit, I can’t fault them.
“It was a classic old school Hawke Cup game which will be remembered for a long time.”
Nelson skipper Brendan Hodgson said his side were disappointed to let Marlborough reach 292, especially after them struggling early on, but he had faith in his side to get the job done with the bat.
“We knew that if we applied ourselves today we were in with a sniff, we backed ourselves to get 300.”
“It was a lovely knock for Nic [Clark] … he was a bit unlucky not to get 100 but he set us up to give it a good chase down the stretch.
“It was also great to have a guy like Joey O’Connor who can come back in and hit us home with some gutsy shots.
“We are fortunate to have a lot of depth with both bat and ball.”
Marlborough 292 (Matthew Stretch 21, Ben Wheeler 52, Tarin Mason 33, Akhil Pant 65, Tom Sutherland 49 not out, Josh Newport 2-52, Thomas Zohrab 2-44, Harsh Visavadiya 2-48, Joey O’Connor 2-17) Nelson 293-9 (Nic Clark 86, Greg Hay 27, Visavadiya 77, Joey O’Connor 40 not out, Nick Weaver 2-52,
Will Smith 2-67,
Bailey Andrews-Kennedy 3-99). Nelson won by one wicket on the first innings.