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Let battle commence . . . Rival captains Robbie Breen (left) and Mason James get ready to play for the Borton Cup. PHOTO: HAYDEN MEIKLE

It is the upstarts against the underdogs. Someone will have a great story to tell after the North Otago senior club cricket final between Waitaki Boys’ High School and Oamaru-St Kevin’s. Hayden Meikle talks to the rival captains.

WAITAKI BOYS’
Schoolboy sport can be an ebb-and-flow business, and there is no doubt Waitaki Boys’ High School cricket is riding the crest of a wave.

The schoolboys broke a 48-year drought when they claimed the Borton Cup in 2016, and this will be their third consecutive appearance in the final.

That is some effort considering they give away so much experience and physicality every week.

“The boys are just always up for it,” Waitaki captain Mason James said.

“We’re the underdogs because we’re the kids and we’re playing against the adults. Every weekend, we just like to go out there and do our thing.”

James has a healthy respect for an Oamaru-St Kevin’s side that might have finished fourth after the regular season but has a heap of talent and experience.

“They’ve obviously got some really good players. But we’ve got some good players too, so I think it’s going to be an even match.”

The ace in the schoolboy pack is, to be fair, the best player in the entire province.

Francois Mostert, the player-coach, is capable of singlehandedly winning the final with ball or bat, but James knows the young men around him must not simply sit back and assume the king can bail them out.

“It’s a team game. The whole team knows that every one of us has to stand up and perform because it will take 11 people to win.”

Waitaki qualified with a thrilling two-wicket win over Union. Ben Mavor and Scott Kitto each grabbed three wickets as Union was rolled for 131, and Mostert led the chase with 83. Blake James and Sam Bastin each had four wickets for Union.

A lack of runs, especially in the top order, has been an issue for the schoolboys but Mason James is confident the side has the ability to post a decent total.

“We just need to remember there are 50 overs to bat. You don’t need to go hard from the start.

“That could be an age thing, I guess. But it will come at some stage, and this would be the perfect week.”

OAMARU-SKC
If only there was a cricket-specific term for a club having to wait a long time for something.

Perhaps, say, something do with the next lot of drinks being served?

That sums up life for the Oamaru club. It is statistically North Otago’s most successful club, having won no fewer than 34 titles. But it has not held the Borton Cup in 10 years, and never as a combined club.

It was exciting for the club to be back in the big show after some lean recent years, captain Robbie Breen said.

“It’s a huge thing for the club. It’s quite special for someone like Ben Coleman, a veteran who has come back into it. You realise how special it is for the older members of the club.

“It’s really nice to give our supporters something to be proud of after a lean few years.”

Oamaru-SKC was the bottom qualifier into the semifinals, and when it slumped to 39 for four against defending champion Albion, all seemed lost.

Enter James Ferris, who walloped a magnificent 177 off 93 balls to guide his side to 265. He (two for seven) and Craig Smith (three for 16) then tore the Albion top order to shreds, and Matt Murphy (three for 19) and Nick Johnston (two for two) mopped up Albion for just 46 to complete a devastating win.

Breen was almost lost for words about Ferris’s knock.

“It was unbelievable stuff, quite special to watch.

“It’s hard to call a 60-ball 100 patient, but it was one of James’s more patient innings. He batted really responsibly but was then just brutal towards the end.”

Classy batsman Ash Abraham and veteran first-class player Craig Smith beef up an Oamaru-SKC XI that has few weaknesses.

“Having Spud [Smith] there is massive for me, just to turn to and ask advice,’ Breen said.

“He can still put on a show with his bowling or batting too.

“Ash is a special talent. We’re sort of lucky that he doesn’t play Sundays, so we didn’t lose him to Hawke Cup duty during the season. He’s been huge for us all year.”

Senior reserve (Glenavy v Union) and second grade (Valley v Oamaru-SKC Blue) finals are also to be played tomorrow.