North Otago captain Craig Smith, a teacher by trade, is happy to give his side an “achieved with merit” assessment at the halfway point of the summer.
An outright win over Otago Country was followed at the weekend by a first-innings win over South Canterbury at Centennial Park.
“If you’d said we would have 20 points in the bag before Christmas, we’d have taken that,” Smith said.
“The outright win in Alex was great. You don’t tend to get that at Molyneux Park too often.
“We couldn’t get a second outright last weekend but the good thing is that South Canterbury got no points out of it, so we nudge ahead of them a little bit.
“I’d have to say we’re pretty happy all round.”
North Otago made a cracking start to the clash with South Canterbury, bowling the old enemy out for 77 and building a 98-run lead on the first innings.
But the home side ended up having to scramble for a draw as South Canterbury batted much better in its second knock.
“There was a little bit of frustration there, but we always knew South Canterbury were going to come back and fight hard,” Smith said.
“Bowling 77 overs was quite good for us, really, because if we do go on and get a challenge, we’ll play against a Bay of Plenty or a Manawatu or a Hamilton on a pretty flat pitch and some good batting.
“I think it was good for the guys to spend a bit of time in the park, and have to toil for a bit.
“The game ebbed and flowed a wee bit, but we got a little bit out of it.”
North Otago again struggled to set a platform at the top of the order.
In 10 combined innings, the top five batsmen only passed 20 once, and that will not be good enough if North Otago is to get its hands back on the Hawke Cup.
“Batting at the top of the order is probably always the Achilles heel for teams in our zone,” Smith said.
“It’s up to our top three, including myself, to try to hang in there for a wee bit longer. Our main job to get the shine off the new ball, because we’ve got some decent players right down the order.”
Nathan Smith was keen to bowl for North Otago but Otago Volts management decided the rising star should not be risked after recovering from a rib injury.
The surprise star with the ball in South Canterbury’s first innings was Ben Cant, who snared four for 14 in his first game for North Otago in nearly two years.
Francois Mostert (46 off 125 balls), Jeremy Smith (25) and Brady Kingan (20) then chipped in with key runs, before Glen Drake (72), Dinesh de Silva (54) and Jacob Naylor (42) combined to lead South Canterbury to a much-improved 250 in its second dig. Mostert added another five wickets to his bulging career tally.
Batting last, North Otago plummeted to 28 for four, and quickly switched into survival mode. Mostert again proved a man for a crisis, seeing off 75 balls for his unbeaten 31 to complete a marvellous all-round performance, while Lachie Kingan showed a calm head to make 27 off 60.
North Otago’s next game is not until February 10-11, when it plays Mid Canterbury in Ashburton.