Buller provide a cricket fairytale
grass pitch. It’s New Zealand’s smallest minor association.
The Buller cricket competition comprises four teams – Athletic, High School, Ngakawau and Old Boys – but half the senior cricketers are actually juniors.
A few names dominate. The Scanlons, including team captain Troy, and the Adams are well represented. The ages of the Buller rep squad range from 15 to 34. There’s no team coach.
Yet Buller survived their regional elimination, beating Marlborough and Nelson, to earn a challenge against champions Canterbury Country in Rangiora.
Canterbury Country’s ranks included New Zealand representative Shanan Stewart, Canterbury rep bowler Will Williams and several Canterbury A players.
It should have been one-way traffic.
Instead Buller mustered 120 (Williams 9-38), bowled out Canterbury Country for 79, then batted just long enough in their second innings (72 overs) to set Canterbury Country a tough target – 188 runs from 27 overs.
The game went down to the last over, bowled by the durable Troy Scanlon.
Canterbury Country needed 19. A four and a six off the first two balls tilted the odds in their favour, but Buller fought back and Canterbury Country were left short at 184-6. I rang Kevin Scanlon, the Buller Cricket Association chairman, on the phone number listed on the association website. The phone was answered ‘‘Mitre 10 Westport’’, Scanlon’s place of work.
He happily filled in the details, and said he’d been inundated with media inquiries.
Tension grew throughout the match, he said. ‘‘For a start we had the odd text from home inquiring how we were going. By the end we were being bombarded with texts and phone calls.’’
The conquering heroes got home at 12.30am and headed for the Criterion Hotel.
The mayor, Garry Howard, and, seemingly, half the town was waiting. A good time was had by all.
At lunchtime there was a formal civic reception. The Westport paper, The News, led with the story, of course. The result was compared to the famous 15-10 rugby win by West Coast-Buller over the Wallabies in 1972.
Buller’s first Hawke Cup defence, against North Otago, will be played from February 12 till 14 on the artificial wicket at Craddock Park. Buller are hopeful. They figure the artificial pitch might work in their favour – instead of them playing on unfamiliar grass wickets, this time the visitors will have to adapt to the bounce of their artificial wicket.
It’s the champion’s home advantage, something new for Buller.
How The News in Westport highlighted Buller’s Hawke Cup triumph.