Bay of Plenty's emphatic Hawke Cup victory against holders Hamilton yesterday afternoon was about as comprehensive as you will ever see in sport.
Hamilton were bowled out on Thursday at their home ground of Galloway Park for 255 by a tenacious Bay of Plenty bowling attack, under the captaincy debut of Mount Maunganui's Peter Drysdale. The Bay batsmen firstly dented the useful Hamilton attack and then pulverised it, in setting four records as they posted a mammoth winning total of 701 before both captains agreed there was an obvious winner.
The Hawke Cup is back in Bay of Plenty Cricket's possession for the first time since 1998 and it was just their fourth Hawke Cup win since the first challenge in 1932.
Day one was a tense day's cricket, with Hamilton getting through to 255 all out, which was barely par for the quality of the wicket. Hamilton reached 108 before they lost their second wicket and were cruising until an inspired spell of pace bowling from Mount Maunganui's Tony Goodin and Greerton allrounder Brett Hampton after lunch changed the balance of the innings, as they ripped out seven of the Hamilton batsmen with Goodin taking 4/74 and Hampton 3/53.
Bay openers Drysdale and Cadets batsman Joe Carter got the Bay through to stumps on day one with honours evenly shared between the teams but days two and three completely belonged to the batsmen, as first Carter (187) and then Hampton (194) went past Simon Winter's previous highest score for the Bay of 181 set against Central Otago in 1996-97.
Bay of Plenty refused to give Hamilton anything to raise their hopes on, as the batsmen continued to go past milestones. First target was to get past Hamilton's first innings score of 255, which they achieved with one wicket down, but after Carter and Bharat Popli put on 208 for the second wicket, Popli was bowled for 99 - just one short of his sixth century for the Bay.
Next target was Bay of Plenty's highest score in any competition of 553, which they passed after Carter's magnificent innings ended on 187. Hampton then smashed it to all parts of Galloway Park in his new record score of 194, including 24 fours and three sixes, and in partnership with Te Puke's Mitch McCann (69), the Bay surged past the previous highest Hawke Cup innings total by any team of 698 to finish on 701 all out.
Drysdale was thrilled to have been in charge of such an important win in Bay cricket history and was enjoying the post-match celebrations when he spoke to the Bay of Plenty Times.
"We set a little bit of a goal to go on and get past 700 and when they took the last wicket they said they had had enough, so it was called off at tea. We are bloody ecstatic," Drysdale said.
"We were aware of the historic significance of this as we talked about it on Thursday night and a few of us - myself, Bharat Popli and Tony Goodin - remain from our failed challenge against Manawatu. We know we have only won it on three other occasions so it is just awesome to do so.
"It is a huge achievement and to take it off Hamilton, who are the most successful side in Hawke Cup history, is just fantastic, and to break a few records along the way is just icing on the cake. We couldn't have dreamed of it going like this. We talked about it being a tight one and there was a lot of pressure chasing down their score initially, but to kick on like we did means everyone is proud of each other, and I am really proud of the boys and the way we went about our week."
Drysdale said the most significant partnership, between Carter and Popli, was a pleasure to watch.
"A few of us said that we had never been as invested in watching a game of cricket and every single delivery at that, as we were in watching that partnership unfold under as much pressure as those boys have encountered. Although the wicket was good, it offered huge assistance to spinners as it was really turning and was not our classical road you might think from scoring 700, but their application showed and the way they went about it was just fantastic."
In all the run-scoring mayhem around him on days two and three, Drysdale had not forgotten how well his bowlers did on the first day that set up the chance for the batsmen to cash in and claim the victory.
"They were 100/1 at one point and for me, that was a big turning point for me in momentum when [Goodin and Hampton] came out after lunch and bowled 10 each on the trot. They bowled miserly, clinical areas which we had talked about and they just hit the same areas and kept being patient, patient and patient before the wickets started to come.
"Those guys drew on something which is pretty special, and Tony bowled 27 overs on the first day. They were backed up by Sean Davey's 21 overs and Ben Williams picked up the first wicket, which was important after they got off to a good start.
"We will celebrate this win but then get ready for our first defence in two weeks, whoever that is. Our goal for the last couple of seasons is not just to win the Hawke Cup but to defend the Hawke Cup so now we have our hands on it we are going to try and hang on to it as long as we can."
Carter, who played for NZ Under-19s last summer, rates his innings not as one of the best he has played but certainly the most satisfying.
He says he and Popli kept setting themselves little targets to keep themselves going in that huge 207-run partnership.
"We knew they had quite a lot of good spinners and the pitch was really turning and doing a bit, so we knew we had to grit our teeth and just fight for a long time," Carter said.
Bay of Plenty's first challenge is against the Hawke's Bay zone 2 champions at Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui from February 8-10.