Marlborough came up just 29 runs short of a first innings win over Hawke Cup holders Canterbury Country in their zone three qualifying match at Rangiora on Sunday.
The home side batted most of Saturday, amassing 317 from 86.3 overs. Marlborough batted for 19 overs before stumps, sitting on 23-2 after losing Tom Sutherland and Andrew McCaa.
On day two, Chris Bartholomeusz and Ben Ivory-McCullum combined resolutely to take the score through to 57 before the latter was run out, then wickets began to fall regularly, including a vital run out of the experienced Jerrym Lamb.
At 93-6 the game was slipping away, but allrounders Akhil Pant and Tarin Mason had other ideas.
With a mixture of clean-hitting and solid defence the pair began to take the game away from Country. At tea Marlborough required 88 runs off 30 overs with four wickets in hand.
At 267-6 it seemed Pant and Mason, who put on 174 runs together, were poised to get Marlborough over the line. However, the loss in consecutive overs of Pant for a superb 111 off 146 balls, his maiden century for Marlborough, and Mason, who continued his recent run of batting form with 65 from 190, stalled the visitors’ momentum.
No 10 batsman Will Smith, with 18 from 28, provided a late flurry but, after batting through 121 overs Marlborough were dismissed for 288. Country’s first innings total was based around a patient 122 from 237 balls from opener Rhys Mariu, who was dropped by Maarlborough when on 30,
He and Rupert Young, 36 from 62, contributed 78 runs for the first wicket, then Mariu combined with Henry Shipley to put together an 83-run partnership for the fourth. Mariu was also part of a pivotal seventh wicket combination of 91 with Joe Williams.
Marlborough’s bowlers responded well despite being put under pressure during several significant partnerships. They continued to push for a breakthrough, then put the brakes on, managing to restrict the home side to a manageable total.
Best of the visiting attack was Will Smith, a Country player last season, who bagged 5-54 from 23 overs. Bailey Andrews-Kennedy, 3-81 from 20, Nick Weaver, 1-45 from 13 and Matthew Stretch, 1-11 from five, were the other wicket-takers.
Marlborough head coach Jarrod Englefield said his side’s focus from the outset was “to take the game as deep as possible”.
“We lost the toss but were thinking about bowling in any case.
“We had opportunities to restrict them to under 300 but considering the momentum that they had at times we did really well to keep them to 317. “Will Smith bowled awesome on that wicket.”
Englefield was happy with aspects of the batting effort.
“Chris Bartholomeusz batted 60 overs for 44 runs, he was a real anchor for us … then we had a couple of run outs that just ripped the soul out of us.
“However our strategy was to have a lengthy batting order and that nearly paid off.
“The partnership between Akhil and Tarin was just unbelievable, they got us right back within a sniff. They took the initiative away from [Country] … but we were against the clock a bit and when Akhil got bowled then Tarin got out it became a bit much to do in the end, although we got bloody close.”
Englefield described Pant’s knock as “amazing … one of the best hundreds I have seen for Marlborough, especially from the position we were in”.
“He put them under a lot of pressure. There was some crunching pull shots, some over cover and powerful drives down the ground.”
Next weekend Marlborough take on Buller in Blenheim, needing at least a first innings win to remain in the race for a play-off position in their zone. In another first round match, Nelson beat Buller on the first innings.
On Friday night the latest round of the Marlborough senior T20 competition took place.
Wairau Valley and Renwick were victorious, both prevailing by significant margins.
Valley took on Wairau and notched a comfortable win, restricting Wairau to 73-8 from their 20 overs, then running the total down for the loss of just one wicket in 9.4 overs.
Extras were top score for Wairau, with Colin Wood’s 16 runs next best. Sukhjinder Sukh claimed 4-10 from four overs while Tom Sloan bagged 2-5 from two.
Andrew Forgesson (47 runs from 33 balls) and Patrick Williams (16 from 21) made short work of the chase.
Renwick batted first against Marlborough Boys’ College, scoring 136-8 from 20 overs. Rikki Bovey (32 from 30), Mark Zillwood (30 from 33) and Ben Weaver (22 from 15) were the main contributors. Ben Holdaway claimed the remarkable figures of 5-17 from four overs for MBC.
The students struggled to score freely against a steady attack, being held to 102-6 when their 20-over complement was completed. Tim Petrie (23 from 28), Will Sutherland (20 from 32) and Holdaway (22 from 19) were the top MBC scorers while Nick Wilder (3-14) was the main wicket taker for Renwick.