The North Otago cricket final again comes down to a boys v men clash. Waitaki Boys’ High School seeks a second straight Borton Cup, while those crafty “Mungers” from Albion chase a return to glory. Hayden Meikle talks to the rival captains.
Mason James and his likely lads are proof there is life after the departure of a superstar.
Waitaki Boys’ cricket has effectively meant one thing – golden boy Nathan Smith – in recent years, and neutrals might have wondered if the school team would struggle when the Otago Volts bowler headed to Dunedin.
Some chance. A new generation of talent has emerged, and will be led by 15-year-old prospect James as Waitaki bids for a second Borton Cup after breaking a 48-year drought last summer.
“Being back in the final is going to be a great experience for our young guys,” James said.
“We lost six players after Christmas so we’ve had a lot of new guys coming in. It’ll be great for the school overall if we can get up and win again.”
Two schoolboys to watch are promising bowler Hayden Creedy and doughty batsman Rhys Petrie.
“Hayden knew he had to step up this season and he’s really done that,” James said.
“The same with Rhys. He’s got that big role at the top of an order and he’s someone we can really build an innings around.”
Waitaki does have one other trump card – a handy young fellow called Francois Mostert.
The North Otago professional has not played much club cricket this season due to Hawke Cup commitments but showed his class with 62 and four for eight in Waitaki’s 105-run win over Valley in the semifinals.
Petrie scored 47, and both Glenn McClea and Sam Senior took two wickets.
There is nothing quite like falling off a perch to make you want to get right back up there.
Albion was the cock of the North Otago cricket roost from 2012-13 to 2014-15, charging to three consecutive wins in the Borton Cup final.
But last summer ended on a flat note for the club as it was knocked out at the semifinal stage, something captain Ricky Whyte said provided plenty of motivation going into this season.
“If you make a final, you can handle having a bad day’s cricket and not winning it. But losing in the semifinals was a bitter pill to swallow, really.”
Albion’s greatest strength is its bowling attack. Relative veterans Brad Kernahan and Dylan Winter have taken oodles of wickets, Jeremy Smith and Brady Kingan can be a handful, and Whyte himself completes a handy line-up.
Albion has not had as much luck with the bat this summer but might just be coming good at the right end of the season – evidenced by the 289 for five it scored against old rival Union in a 77-run win in the semifinals.
“We struggled quite a bit at the start of the season. No-one really clicked and we couldn’t get partnerships going,” Whyte said. “Then we got three 50s in our top three in one game, and last weekend it all came together really well. We’ve also got a fairly decent middle order, which is quite settled now with everyone back.”
The key man is Smith, a genuine talent who broke out of a (relative) run drought with a sparkling 129 in the semifinal. Regan George added 51, before Smith (three for 45) and Kingan (four for 37) cleaned up Union.
Whyte knows Waitaki Boys’ will front with its own lethal bowling attack, led by Mostert and Creedy.
“Our batsmen will definitely have a battle on their hands. They’ll have to prove their worth.”