North Otago’s demolition of South Canterbury came down to one man — Jeremy Smith.
Smith produced the bowling performance of his career last weekend, taking astonishing match figures of 13 for 52 to guide North Otago to a thrilling 11-run Hawke Cup qualifying win over South Canterbury at Centennial Park. Only John Reid, who took 13 for 51 against Ashburton County, has — by the smallest of margins — better match figures for the province.
Smith said it was not the best he had felt bowling but he was pleased with the wickets.
‘‘But it was just one of those days when everything came off, and the boys took some good catches.’’
North Otago coach Stu Slack said Smith reaped the rewards of his hard work, putting the ball in the right areas.
‘‘When you do all those one percenters really well, I think rewards do come — and he’s doing really well,’’ Slack said.
‘‘He gives 120% to everything he does . . .He just wants the ball in his hand all the time and I want those players in my team.
‘‘We certainly value him pretty highly in the team.’’
North Otago looked in trouble early being all out for 79 in the first innings. A 10th wicket partnership between Cameron Grubb (22) and Blake James (9) brought the team home.
‘‘That pretty much won us the game if you look at it like that too.
‘‘It shouldn’t be up to them to do it.
‘‘We do need to find more runs in the first innings absolutely but they came out and just dug in and kept fighting hard,’’ Slack said.
Just when it looked like North Otago could be out, South Canterbury fell apart, all out for 48 — South Canterbury’s lowest total against North Otago in 126 years.
Smith put the pressure on taking eight for 23 in the first innings, Grubb took two for 20, and the fielders worked to keep the game alive. Slack said his players were diving for balls, only dropped one catch the whole game and put in a gutsy performance in the field.
North Otago performed better with the bat in the second innings, making 141 through Amal Ashok (36) and Smith (30). South Canterbury was far better in the second, making 161 runs, but Smith’s five wickets, and Grubb and Tom Dempster’s two wickets each sealed North Otago’s 11 run victory.
It was a thrilling match, ‘‘full of emotion’’ and Slack was incredibly proud of his team and the fight they showed.
Effort, energy and attitude were the key attributes Slack was looking for in his players this season, and those were what guided North Otago to the win last weekend, he said.
That fight and momentum would be massive when North Otago takes on Southland on February 12 and 13 in Oamaru.
North Otago players were straight back to training this week and had a warm-up match against North Otago A scheduled for February 6.
— Additional reporting Hayden Meikle