Both Marlborough teams in the Tasman Premier League cricket competition slid to heavy defeats on Saturday.
The Falcons, playing at Horton Park, went down to table-toppers Stoke Nayland by six wickets, while the Dolphins, who led the competition coming into the festive break, were hammered by ACOB in Nelson, losing by 171 runs.
The bonus point victories claimed by Stoke Nayland and ACOB, plus a similar haul by Nelson College, has ramped up the stakes leading into the final round of the competition, to be played in three weeks due to rep commitments.
The three Nelson side, plus the Dolphins, now all have a chance of making the three-team play-offs in February.
The wheels are wobbling on the Dolphins’ campaign and without leading run scorer Prabodha Arthavidu they seem especially vulnerable. Stoke Nayland and ACOB look assured of play-off berths while Nelson College, under coach Garry MacDonald, appear to be coming home with a wet sail.
The outstanding individual performance of the day was produced by belligerent ACOB opener Thomas Zohrab who backed up a fine 117 with a parsimonious and dangerous bowling display of 4-13 off 10 overs.
At the Botanics, ACOB put together their best batting display of the season, registering a formidable 286/7 against the visiting Dolphins. Nic Clark and Zohrab produced a 92-run opening partnership, then when Clark went Zohrab took centre stage. He was the fourth man dismissed with the score at 238, then his lower order teammates chimed in as the total grew.
The Dolphins all struggled against the home team onslaught, but medium pacer Akhil Pant was the best with a three-wicket bag.
The chase always appeared out of reach for the Dolphins as Thomas Zohrab completed an outstanding double by applying the screws early in a 10-over spell which yielded four wickets for just 13 runs. Ben Blackman offered some resistance, but the run chase always seemed to be a forlorn hope as Ollie Jones-Allen administered the final rites.
A similarly-limp batting effort by the Falcons enabled defending champs Stoke Nayland to cruise to a bonus point win in Blenheim.
They chased down the 92 runs amassed by the Falcons for the loss of just four wickets in the 21st over.
Only opener Joel Lavender, who was run out for 23, hung tough for the Falcons as they batted first and cobbled together a below-par score against an accurate Stoke Nayland bowling unit. They applied consistent pressure and were all rewarded by their perseverance in line and length on a friendly wicket. Left arm spinner Paddy Howes picked up the cherries with three, but it was a real team effort.
A bright spot for the Falcons was the bowling of Nick Weaver, the left arm paceman claiming a wicket with the first ball of the visitors’ innings and troubling all their batsman. He fully deserved his 4-34 from 10 overs, but ultimately Stoke Nayland di it in a canter, experienced batsmen Brendan Hodgson and Ricky Edwards guiding them home.
Meanwhile Nelson College accumulated 241-9 against WTTU at Jubilee Park. Finn Restieaux was the top scorer with a classy 72.
The early loss of both Joey O’Connor and Tom Cross seriously stymied WTTU’s hopes of chasing down the imposing total set by the schoolboys. Jarrod McKay undid them both within his first six overs and after that the home team was always playing catch up.
At Brightwater, Wanderers-Motueka scored a 40 run win over Wakatu. Both teams are out of contention for the play-offs but enjoyed a tight battle. Wanderers scored 176 batting first, then dismissed Wakatu for 136 in the 38th over, a hat-trick to Hayden Ingram the highlight.
Falcons 92 (Joel Lavender 23, Paddy Howes 3-27, Tom Chambers 2-19, Billy Guyton 2-23) Stoke Nayland 93-4 (Ricky Edwards 30*, Nick Weaver 4/34). Stoke Nayland won by 6 wickets.
ACOB 286-7 (Thomas Zohrab 117, Nic Clark 57, David Zohrab 34, Josh Simpson 29, James Graham 21, Akhil Pant 3-57) Dolphins 115 (Ben Blackman 28, Thomas Zohrab 4-13, Ollie Jones-Allen 3-10). ACOB won by 171 runs
Nelson College 241-9 (Finn Restieaux 72, Jonty Raxworthy 38, Jarrod McKay 41, Sam Baxendine 3-44, Josh Newport 2-26, Billy Powick 2-55) WTTU 112 (Andrew Drummond 26, Mason Thelin 21, Ronan Chauhan 3-19, Jack MacNeil 2-4, McKay 2-20). Nelson College won by 129 runs.
Wanderers-Motueka 176 (Dave Leaonard 52, Logan Ogilvie 43, Damian Aitken 4-37) Wakatu 136 (Fergus Hughes 61*, Hayden Ingram 4-10, Ogilvie 3-42). Wanderers won by 40 runs.