When the players awoke to a town shrouded in rain clouds and mist, little could they have known that the afternoon was to bring a record-breaking win for the Pukekohe Metro Reserves.
With heavy overnight rain, and low cloud hanging over Pukekohe for much of the morning, the chance of this fixture even happening was looking bleak. A pitch inspection at 11am showed that the wicket was wet, but the outfield was not too bad. So the call was made - "So long as there was no more rain before 1pm, the wicket should dry sufficiently to allow the game to go ahead".
By the time 1pm came around, the wicket had dried completely, the outfield was dry, but slow, and the ground was bathed in sunshine and buffeted by a wind which helped to keep the ground dry and the bowlers busy.
Pukekohe's captain, Ian Pool, had been doubtful to play after suffering from an illness during the week. Cover was found for the role of wicket keeper, in the form of the impressive Colts keeper, Lance Kraakman. Ian DID make it to the game...one which he will remember for a very long time. He won the toss and elected to bat.
Opening the batting were two of the younger members of the club, Wolf Truong and Thomas Keen. Along with Lance, Thomas is currently a Colts player, and was chomping at the bit to see some action, having missed out on any morning cricket thanks to the rain. Wolf, on the other hand, is playing his first full season of senior cricket, having graduated from the Colts squad last year. He is a talented player who has a unique skill-set which equips him as an opener with both bat and ball.
In contrast to many games this season, Pukekohe started slow and steady, with the openers playing complementary roles. Wolf was steadfast in defence, and didn't look to score runs unless they were offered on a plate. Thomas, on the other hand, was playing some expansive shots where available, and was looking comfortable in doing so. Just as Wolf got his eye in, and started to attack the bowling, he was run out whilst scampering back for a rather unlikely second run. He had played the ball off his pads, just backward of square, and gambled on the fielder's arm. The gamble didn't pay off, and he departed in the 8th over for 5 runs, with the score on 30.
This brought Sarang Padey to the crease. Sarang has opened the batting this season, but his attacking flair is more suited to a higher number on the order, and 3 proved to be his lucky number today. Not only was it his batting position, but it was also the number at the end of his score when the innings closed 131 minutes later.
Sarang made a steady and sensible start to his innings, and he was working well with Thomas Keen, even if his legs couldn't quite keep up with his much younger counterpart. Thomas was batting very well, and playing some sublime shots to all parts of the ground. He found the boundary four times before he surrendered his wicket to the worst delivery he'd faced, mis-timing his drive to push a slow full-toss straight back to the bowler having contributed a very impressive 33 runs to the team total of 78.
With 4 overs until drinks, Lance Kraakman arrived at the crease and he continued the cautious approach which his predecessors had begun. As Sarang tired in the middle, threes became twos, and twos became singles and shots started finding the boundary. 33 runs were added before drinks, to leave the Blue Ducks sitting pretty on a nelson for the loss of just two wickets.
In the 25th over, with the score on 133, Lance was dismissed and this brought together the two most destructive batsmen in the Blue Ducks line-up. The run worm didn't know what had hit it, and neither did Mauku's bowlers. In the first over of their partnership, Sarang and Ian added just 4 runs. In the next 14 overs, they added 201, as they set about the bowlers with outstanding power-hitting. Only one of the remaining overs went for less than 10 runs (34th over went for 8), whereas the 38th over saw 24 runs smashed from it. The Manhatten skyline had finally come to life.
Sarang finally cracked three figures for the first time since joining PMCC, cutting the ball through to the cover boundary with 6 overs remaining. Ian pool was sitting on 42 at the time. In true sporting fashion, Sarang decided to gift the remainder of the match to Ian's audacious assault on his own maiden century. In the last 6 overs, Ian scored 56 runs, almost exclusively in boundaries, whilst Sarang was content with scoring a single, when required to keep Ian on strike.
With two balls of the innings to spare, Ian had raced through to 98, and he knew that a personal milestone was within his grasp. Little did he know, that the Daniels brothers would conspire to deny him his century. Matthew Daniels supplied the short-pitched delivery which Ian pulled through square but didn't catch it as cleanly as he needed to, sending it high towards the midwicket boundary. The ball was in the air for so long, that the batsmen had crossed on the way back for their second run when Ian was caught just inside the boundary, by the bowler's younger brother, Samuel. The damage to Mauku had already been done, though, and with a first innings score of 338, Pukekohe had broken the spirit of Mauku's players.
Along with Thomas Keen and Lance Kraakman, Hayden Benny is a colts player with a bright future. He hadn't been included in the original starting XI but, after Tanny Singh withdrew due to illness 1 hour before the game, Hayden offered his services and was promoted into the squad for his first start in senior cricket. He had sat on the boundary with his pads on whilst Ian and Sarang had set about the Mauku bowlers, only to walk out to the non-striker's end for the final delivery of the innings. His patience was rewarded when Ian Pool threw him the new ball and asked him to open the bowling, opposite Wolf Truong.
With Wolf struggling to find his line from the southern end, Hayden was destructively accurate from the other end. With his second delivery, he had Mauku's opener dismissed in the most impressive fashion. Lance Kraakman was giving a master class in wicket-keeping, and was standing up to the medium-pacer when Hayden drew the right-handed batsman into a false stroke, getting the faintest of outside edges. Not only did Lance take the ball cleanly, but he then whipped out his left hand to dislodge the bails with the batsman's back foot still in the air. Lance's lightning-quick reflexes had both umpires extending their index finger to dismiss the batsman. The final consensus was that he had been caught BEFORE he had been stumped.
Lance's high-quality keeping was forcing the batsmen to stay in their crease and this was restricting their scoring opportunities and increasing the risk of LBW. Hayden Benny took full advantage, snaring Mauku's number 6 LBW for his fourth wicket of the innings; their score was 27 for 5. In the next over, Lance took his first stumping of the innings to remove former Blue Duck Matthew Daniels (Maddog) who had faced 25 balls without troubling the scorer. When Hayden completed his 5-wicket haul, with the final ball of his next over, Mauku's batting line-up was in complete disarray at 27 for 7. Hayden ended up with outstanding figures of 6 overs, 3 maidens, 5 wickets for 10 runs.
With the final ball of the 15th over, Lance whipped off the bails of Mauku's number 10 to record his third stumping of the innings (to go with his earlier catch) and put Mauku out of their misery, exactly 300 runs short of Pukekohe's mammoth total.
None of the Mauku batsmen made it into double-figures and, if it hadn't been for Pukekohe's benevolence with extras (16 wides), then the winning margin would have been even greater.
After just 15 overs, Mauku had been dismissed by Pukekohe to record the largest winning margin in Pukekohe Metro Reserve's history. With three additions to the honours board (Sarang Padey 103*, Hayden Benny 5/10, Lance Kraakman 4 dismissals) and one who came oh-so-close, it was a memorable day for everyone who was fortunate enough to witness this historic victory at Rosa Birch Park.
Match report by Mark Fleming.