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.

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