An encounter that went down to the penultimate ball of the match, and the unexpected return to Baywide club cricket of Northern Knights' Graeme Aldridge, were highlights of an absorbing Williams Cup clash between Tauranga Boys' College and East Bay United played on Saturday.
Tauranga Boys' batted first on their home ground at Nicholson Field, with mentor and former Northern Districts batsman Mark Orchard in sublime touch, blasting 91 runs as his side set a sizeable target of 227. Tauranga Boys' keeper Alex Oakley also made a solid contribution with 52 runs. The best of the East Bay bowling attack was Joel Mathews, who finished with figures of 4/41.
While the East Bay batsmen kept up with the required run rate, they kept losing wickets until Aldridge, Northern Districts' top wicket taker in first class cricket, strode to the wicket. He shifted to the Eastern Bay of Plenty to live a few months ago, and had not played a club game in the Bay of Plenty since the former Mount Maunganui stalwart left to play in Hamilton nine years ago.
He had always been a prolific run scorer at club level and he proved it again at Nicholson Field when he steered his team to victory with a fine knock. Needing 26 runs to win in the last three overs, Aldridge did most of the scoring and hit the winning runs off the penultimate ball of the innings to finish up 64 not out.
Talented young Trident High School batsman Pip Thickpenny (57) and Hugh Adim (45) both made useful contributions to the East Bay United total, while promising Tauranga Boys' bowler Henry Conway grabbed four wickets.
The match at Pemberton Park between defending champions Greerton and visitors Te Puke was expected to be a close encounter but in the end Te Puke enjoyed a comprehensive victory.
The match was decided essentially with a second wicket partnership of 174, between Mitch McCann and Bay of Plenty coach Ben Williams, that took the game away from Greerton. McCann smashed 124 while Williams played a solid supporting role to post 66, as their team reached an excellent total of 245/6 in their 50 overs.
While Cameron Neal was defiant at one end and played some typically boisterous attacking strokes in his team's top score of 46, the other Greerton batsmen aside from Mathew Earl (38) were troubled by the Te Puke bowling attack and were all out for 153. Both McCann and Williams showed their all-round skills by taking three wickets each with Josh Dwight nabbing 2/31.
McCann's innings lasted nearly the entire 50 overs and was the 22-year-old's maiden club century. "I was pretty relieved to get the hundred and get that off my back really," he said. "I just tried to keep things simple, watching the ball and playing as it comes.
"It was actually quite hard through the middle of the innings, it was quite slow and not really coming on to the bat that well, so we were definitely happy with around 240. We knew it was going to break up a bit more and spin.
"I have a few good mates in the Greerton team so I wanted to perform to my best and get one over them. It has been a few years since we have beaten them here so it was good."
McCann has been playing in the Fergus Hickey rep competition for Poverty Bay as a draft player this summer, which has given him a taste of higher level cricket that he would like to get more of in the future - but ideally in the Bay of Plenty colours.
"I am playing for Bay Development at the moment and also for Poverty Bay, but obviously I want to push on and make the Bay of Plenty team and be a regular member in that. That is my goal at the moment."
McCann is optimistic for his Te Puke team's chances for the rest of the season. "Definitely hopes for winning this season. We are building well as a team and have a good bunch of core guys this year and guys like Paul de Wyatt and Pete Swann doing all the hard work behind the scenes, so it is going well. It is also good having Ben Williams playing for us as he has that extra experience and we are quite a young team."
At Blake Park, a massive opening partnership of 168 by Mount Maunganui's Peter Drysdale and Tim Clarke set up an easy Mount victory against BOP Indians. Drysdale posted his second century of the season with an unbeaten 124, with Clarke falling on 96, as the Mount finished at a massive 296/3. When the Rotorua side's star batsmen and Bay of Plenty record holder for centuries scored, Bharat Popli, was removed for 37, the resistance fell away against the steady Mount attack and the Indian side were dismissed for 104. Dale Swan ended his bowling spell with outstanding figures of 4/10.
Cadets joined Te Puke at the top of the points standings when they defeated Central at Smallbone Park in Rotorua. Bay of Plenty representative skipper Jono Boult grabbed four wickets as the Rotorua side were removed for 117, then posted his side's top score of 46 as Cadets got home with five wickets in hand.