Bay of Plenty face a stern opening defence of the Hawke Cup against a strong Manawatu side in a three-day game beginning on Friday at the Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui.
The Bay has selected a strong line-up to meet Manawatu with captain and Northern Knight, Jono Boult, available for the Hawke Cup defence, after missing the Bay's Hawke Cup victory against Hamilton. Last season Boult set a new mark for the number of Bay wickets in a season, when he grabbed 33 to better Graeme Aldridge's previous record.
Regular wicket keeper, Tim Clarke, returns to the side after missing the Hamilton encounter because of injury. He is a quality middle order batsman who has posted 434 runs in two and half seasons in the Bay of Plenty colours.
But Black Caps allrounder Corey Anderson will not be playing which is bad news for the Bay. Northern Districts want him to play a club game rather than a tough three-day match in his comeback from a broken thumb - a decision not received with any pleasure by Bay of Plenty.
Tauranga Boys' College player Tom MacRury will quickly learn about life in the fast lane of district cricket when he walks onto the Bay Oval tomorrow.
The 18-year-old opening batsman has had a spectacular season and was one of the star batsmen at the recent National Under-19 tournament. Just last weekend he scored an unbeaten 132 for Tauranga Boys' in a Baywide Premier game.
However, Bay of Plenty will be well aware of the reality of Hawke Cup cricket, with several team members in the side that was mauled by Manawatu in 2010.
The Bay batted first and were removed for just 100, with Manawatu going on to post 659 to easily repel the Bay of Plenty challenge.
The most memorable Bay of Plenty Hawke Cup defence took place against Central Otago at Blake Park in 1997. The Bay batted first and posted a massive 553/9 with Simon Winter making a magnificent 181. Other Bay heroes with the bat were Brodie Wakefield (86), Dereck Beard (66) and Graham Aldridge (52).
Two Bay of Plenty all time records were obliterated in the Hawke Cup victory against Hamilton. First Joe Carter (187). then Brett Hampton (194). sailed past Simon Winter's mark, in the Bay of Plenty massive effort of 701 all out, which also set a new record.
The Bay of Plenty first successful defence after taking the Hawke Cup from Hawkes Bay in March 1986, was also against Central Otago. The visitors batted first and were removed for a modest 156. Bay of Plenty, led by the only two players who've played 100 games for Bay of Plenty in Mike Wright (87) and Derek Beard (65), saw the Bay take a first innings lead when they were dismissed for 275. While both side batted again, the Bay took first innings points from the match to retain the Hawke Cup in the last challenge of the season.
The first day of the defence against Horowhenua in February 1987, saw the Bay in charge from the opening ball. The visitors were removed for 87, with the side's top score of 25 by D Hadfield batting at nine telling the tale of the Bay bowlers' ferocity. New Zealand cricket legend Lance Cairns grabbed four wickets, with Glamorgan professional John Derrick in fine form, taking 3/9. While Bay of Plenty posted a modest 141, it was more than enough for the home team to go on and claim an outright victory.
Then followed a roller coaster ride in 1987 where Bay of Plenty lost the Hawke Cup to Hawke's Bay, before reclaiming the prestigious prize in the next scheduled challenge against Hawke's Bay and then losing it to Southland in the last challenge of the season.
Beard has the best performance figures of any Bay player in a career spanning nearly two decades and he was also an outstanding performer for Northern Districts over five seasons.
He says Hawke Cup cricket was the toughest he played.
"In first class cricket there were points for first innings but you could still go for the outright win but basically the first innings in Hawke Cup was quite sufficient," he said. "There was a lot of pressure and you couldn't afford any mistakes. Geoff Howarth and those guys who played test cricket said it was really hard cricket."
Bay of Plenty team v Manawatu, Hawke Cup Challenge, Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui February 8-10
Peter Drysdale, Joe Carter, Bharat Popli, Jono Boult, Tom MacRury, Brett Hampton, Mitch McCann, Tim Clarke, Sean Davey, Tony Goodin, Ben Williams, Tom Clout and Dale Swann - one player to be omitted and 12th man named Friday.
Bay of Plenty Teams to win the Hawke Cup:
v Hawke's Bay 16/18 March 1986
MJE Wright, DA Beard, DJ White, BR Blair, ADG Roberts, CA Webb, RR Bradley, SJ Scott, BL Cairns, BS Ward, MR McKinnon.
v Hawke's Bay 14/16 March 1987
DA Beard, MJE Wright, DJ White, GW McKenzie, MP Maynard, ADG Roberts, RR Bradley, BP Ward, F Lellman, MR McKinnon, BN McIntosh.
v Auckland Manukau 1/3 March 1997
BG Wakefield, GJ Taylor, GM Donne, MJ Tesar, JR Gibson, NP Howard, NJR Aldridge, MN Hart, GD Manners, RG Hart, DA Beard, PMI Wills.
v Hamilton 25/27 January 2013
RPO Drysdale, JF Carter, B Popli, MD McCann, BRW Williams, S Steward, BR Hampton, AJ Oakley, SB Davey, DL Swan, TC Goodin 12th Man B Gilroy