The title came courtesy of Auckland rain that conspired to scotch all three matches on Finals day at Cornwall Park.
The battle did get underway for all teams, however, and down at the number three ground there was a complete innings from Kaikorai that starred a raucous century from SBS Bank Otago Volt Iain Robertson, scored off just 36 balls.
But all eyes were on the number ground where Christchurch’s St Albans — championship contenders for two years running and unbeaten this time around until the day before — were locked in battle with the capital lads who had handed them that critical defeat.
Why had that one loss been so crucial? Because it meant the Wellingtonians not only finished on equal points, but were also then ahead on net run rate. And now they were squaring off in the Grand Final, and a thick grey blanket of rain was creeping across the city, and eventually — just after 4pm — the match would be abandoned with St Albans stopped at 74/4 and unable to “put things right”.
Easts’ Jamie Gibson was named overall Player of the Tournament.
Batsman of the week went to young Christian Leopard of Napier Tech; allrounder of the tournament to his teammate Indika Senarathne and bowler of the tournament to relentless Suburbs New Lynn competitor Josh Presland.
1st Eastern Suburbs (Wellington)
2nd St Albans (Canterbury)
3rd Napier Tech Old Boys (Central Districts)
4th Suburbs New Lynn (Auckland)
5th Kaikorai (Otago)
6th Manukau City (Northern Districts)
Day 6: St Albans 74/4 v Eastern Suburbs (did not bat) View scorecard
St Albans elected to bat first, dew on the number one ground having seen the showcase match get underway 20 minutes after the other two games.
As befits a Final, both teams gave no quarter in conditions that required the batting side to earn their runs.
The Wellingtonians made regular breakthroughs in the 24 overs of play that was possible, wickets shared around the attack except, ironically, for Jamie Gibson, who had arguably caused the most trouble with a mean economy rate of just 1.33 reflecting the respect he commanded.
After light but lingering rain forced all the games to be suspended, St Albans kept their hopes up that play would eventually be able to resume, giving them a crack at bowling at their opponents in a reduced overs DLS match.
But while the covers did come off a few hours later and best attempts were made to dry off the ground, conditions did not play ball, and that was that — Easts winning their first ever title in the 22nd edition of the national tournament, on superior net run rate.
Day 5: Eastern Suburbs 219/8 (Fraser Colson 63, Alecz Day 34; Tom Meyrick 3-44) beat St Albans (Christchurch) 178 (Michael Slack 49, Dylan Budge 49; Jamie Gibson 6-40) by 41 runs FULLSCORECARD
An impressive effort with the ball from 2015/16 Firebirds first-class debutant Jamie Gibson lifted Eastern Suburbs into the showcase Final of the NZCT National Club Cricket Championships at Auckland’s Cornwall Park.
Easts will meet St Albans in a rematch of the hard-fought day five encounter between two of the strongest sides at the tournament, that saw Easts manage to defend a middling total on the Cornwall Park number one wicket — a surface that proved more difficult to score on as the day wore on, in overcast conditions. Easts was facing off against the only undefeated side in the competition in St Albans.
After deciding to bat first, Easts was able to make it through to 219 from their 50 overs. They had struggled to build partnerships through their innings, and relied on substantial contributions from the well performed Fraser Colson (also a Firebird this summer) in the middle order, and then a late tranche of runs from the experienced duo of Lance Dry and Peter Connell to lift their total to a solid position.
In response, experienced St Albans looked to be in real trouble early as they attempted to pull in Eastern Suburbs’ total. The Christchurch side was in strife when they found themselves at 15/3 in just the eighth over, the Eastern Suburbs opening attack of Peter Connell and Ricky Joseph having put the squeeze on.
Michael Slack and Dylan Budge were able to put on a key, frustrating partnership that put St Albans back into the mix. The duo was able to drag their side back into the match with an almost hundred run partnership. However, after Budge lost his wicket the wheels started to fall off the St Albans chase. A resurgent Jamie Gibson was able to have an impact with the ball and in the field as he helped send St Albans packing — the key being the removal of the dangerous late order hitter Tom Meyrick. Gibson backed up his early wicket with five more, and a run out. St Albans and Easts will meet on Cornwall Park number one in the Final, while Suburbs New Lynn and Napier Tech will battle for third spot.
Day 4: Eastern Suburbs (Wellington) v Suburbs New Lynn (Auckland)
Eastern Suburbs 161 (Andrew Fullerton-Smith 39, Jimad Khan 37) lost to Suburbs New Lynn 168/5 (George Hanham 55, Michael Barry, 49; Jack Anderson 3-36) by five wickets FULLSCORECARD
A calm chase combined with a useful early bowling performance helped Suburbs New Lynn hand Eastern Suburbs their first defeat of the NZCT National Club Cricket Championships.
Wellington’s Easts had been riding high along with St Albans as the only unbeaten sides heading into the fourth round — but a solid comeback from the Auckland side ended that run in a rain-impacted encounter. Suburbs gained an early foothold in the game thanks to their strong bowling duo of Josh Presland and Anas Patel chipping out early wickets. That left Easts in the middle of a rebuilding phase when rain called their innings early.
With a shortened target to chase, Suburbs New Lynn broke the back of the chase through a strong partnership between skipper Michael Barry and George Hanham, and put their side in a strong position. The chase wasn’t without nerves, however, after both Barry and then Hanham lost their wickets after having been well set. It took a very composed partnership between Jonny Bassett-Graham and Max Montgomery to take them home.
The pair pushed runs well on Cornwall’s big number one, and they offered few chances for Easts to cash in on. Suburbs will now be hoping to push for another victory against Kaikorai tomorrow in the hope of boosting their way up the table. Easts, on the other hand, head into an intriguing clash with frontrunners St Albans.
Day 3: Manukau City 167 (Jono Hickey 80, Sandeep Patel 47; Peter Connell 6-36) lost to Eastern Suburbs 173/4 (Fraser Colson 53, Jeremy Dean 39; Sandeep Patel 3-64) by six wickets FULL SCORECARD
Wellington’s Easts put on another dominant display as they inflicted a third successive loss on the luckless Manukau City — now without their stellar weapon in Ish Sodhi for a couple of games.
The Northern Districts club champions had looked like they maybe building to a strong total, the multitalented Jono Hickey starting on a strong partnership with Sandeep Patel.
However, once Peter Connell was able to dismiss Hickey, things went south rapidly for Manukau. Hickey had made 80 and Patel 47, and after their departure no other player managed a score over six. Manukau found itself rolled just in the 26th over, Connell helping himself to a fine 6-36 off just 6.1 overs.
In response, Easts got the required runs at a canter. Opener Alecz Day was the first to go, but by then he had already helped with a 49-run opening stand with Jeremy Dean (39 off 48). Firebird Fraser Colson once again showed his talents as he notched 53 from just 43 balls, peppered with seven boundaries and three sixes on the smallest ground at Cornwall. It was a strong score from Colson regardless, backing up his hundred from the day before. Chamika Gajanayaka with 22 and Jimad Khan with 18 then made sure Easts would cruise to the target in quick time, just two down.
The Manukau troops sloped away licking their wounds after the early finish — the other games still in full swing, just to rub it in, as they trundled away to the carpark.
Day 2: EASTERN SUBURBS v KAIKORAI
Eastern Suburbs (Wellington) 322/8 (Fraser Colson 144, Lauchie Johns 63; Georgie Scott 3/46) beat Kaikorai (Otago) 159 (Liam Cotton 39, Josh Finnie 31; Jamie Gibson 3/13) by 163 runs FULL SCORECARD
A strong Easts unit on paper translated into a strong Easts unit on the park as the Welington reps continued to make the most of their players with first-class experience. Fraser Colson, who has enjoyed a recent run of success with the Wellington Firebirds, dug them out of a hole. Colson had entered in the ninth over after the three men before him had all been sent back without reaching double figures — and then set about rescuing Easts in style.
After some starts, he found a willing partner in Lauchie Johns and the pair was able to build and give the Eastern Suburbs innings some real substance. Colson showed impressive hitting ability as he built his score with 15 fours and eight sixes on Cornwall Park number two, the the delight of the pavilion. The sixes became more an more frequent as he tore through the 80s and 90s, and hitting three figures did not slow him at all — his 144 providing the majority of his side’s impressive total of 322/8. Ili Tugaga also adding some late flourish at the end as he took Colson’s cue and struck a boundary and two sixes to boost the total.
In reply, Kaikorai looked to be going well early, but eventually continued a theme for the day of chases that simply couldn’t keep up the necessary momentum. The Dunedin side’s top five all offered starts, but none could kick on to play the matchwinning hand they needed.
After the wickets of top order batsmen Liam Cotton and New Zealand U19 Captain and Volt Josh Finnie, no other Kaikorai player could get past 18. Their chase fell flat as Easts turned up the bowling heat. Lance Dry rotated his bowlers well as he mixed pace with spin and refused to let Kaikorai settle. Jamie Gibson continued his solid all-round form as he picked up the final three Kaikorai wickets.
Day 1:Eastern Suburbs (Wellington) beat Napier Tech Old Boys (Central Districts) by 17 runs
Eastern Suburbs 197/8 (Jamie Gibson 90*), Napier Tech Old Boys (Central Districts) 180 (Christian Leopard 101*; Ricky Joseph 4/23)
It wasn’t without a big fight. Napier’s own young gun, New Zealand Under 19s World Cup rep Christian Leopard, very nearly got his side home with an unbeaten ton in response.
Gibson’s 90 was the shining light on an Easts card that showed no other player was able to get past 17. Arriving at the crease in just the fourth over, Gibson was able to carry his side through their 50 overs in order to make sure they set a total.
In reply, the “Texans” looked like they might be swept aside very quickly by the experienced Wellington club side, but young allrounder Leopard’s arrival very quickly changed any of those thoughts.
In a 78-ball stay at the crease, the youngster was able to clear the rope seven times and add nine further boundaries. His hitting at the death very nearly took Napier over the line.
Leopard, however, simply didn’t have the support, a double strike from Easts’ veteran skipper Lance Dry completing the victory for his side.
*All article credit to blackcaps.co.nz