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Up-and-comer . . . Tom Dempster plays a shot for the Otago under-19 cricket team. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Youth has been a feature of North Otago’s Hawke Cup campaign this season.

All but three of the side’s regulars are under 30-years-old, and several teenagers have been given a chance to represent their region.

That has paid off so far.

North Otago leads its Hawke Cup group going into its final pool game against Southland tomorrow.

A first-innings win, provided Southland does not come back for an outright win, would secure North Otago a Hawke Cup challenge.

Tom Dempster (18), one of the side’s youngest members, helped North Otago into the position it is now in with a gutsy 29 not out to salvage a draw against South Canterbury two weeks ago.

North Otago was in trouble at 45 for five before Dempster and Llew Johnson (62 not out) batted out the rain-affected day.

“It was a bit different having to go out there and bat a wee bit at the start and obviously have a wee bit of a five-hour break before we could go out there and bat for an hour,” the left-handed batsman said.

Originally from Waikouaiti, Dempster played his youth cricket in North Otago before attending John McGlashan College.

The lower-order batsman is averaging 19.5 with the bat in the Hawke Cup this summer.

This year, he is playing senior cricket for Taieri in the Dunedin competition, and represented Otago under-19 at the national tournament last year.

He said the standard of Hawke Cup cricket was right up there with those competitions.

“It’s pretty cool. It’s a pretty high level, quite challenging,” he said.

“[There are] a few boys I grew up playing with in my age-group stuff as well, which is quite good.

“It’s a pretty good start.”

Next week, he will start property management studies at Lincoln University.

He is not sure where he will play cricket next season, but said he would keep training through the winter months.

North Otago’s must-win game against Southland starts at 10.30am tomorrow at Whitestone Contracting Stadium Oval.

North Otago squad to play Southland

Jeremiah Shields (c), Scott Kitto, Llew Johnson, Jeremy Smith, Stephan Grobler, Tom Dempster, Duncan Drew, Mason James, Cameron Grubb, Brad Fleming.