There have been few sweeter moments in Bay of Plenty cricket than the stunning come-from-behind victory to defend the Hawke Cup over Manawatu after three pulsating days of cricket at the Bay Oval.
The game had pretty much everything you can throw into a desperate piece of sporting theatre - aggressive and confident teams, a superb playing surface, umpiring controversy and some brilliant individual performances. But in the final analysis, Bay of Plenty won the game outright on Sunday after conceding first innings points on Saturday, which in most Hawke Cup games is the end of the game.
But thanks to a superb five-wicket haul from Mount Maunganui pace bowler Tony Goodin, followed by a match-winning innings of 77 by New Zealand Under-19 opener Joe Carter, Bay easily reached the 209 needed to win in the end by seven wickets.
Goodin was typically low key about his performance but summed up his team's mood after what looked an unlikely result 24 hours earlier.
"This is just huge for us to win this," Goodin said. "I am very pleased with how I bowled, particularly because I didn't really bowl well in the first innings so to come back in the second innings and do what I did is pleasing.
It is a special win for the boys because most of us have been together since age group and have grown up together.
"We were disappointed how it went [on Saturday] but we knew if we bowled well we had a chance. It has been a pretty good year for us so far and it really helps to have people like Peter Drysdale in the team. He sent me a text last night which gave me a real lift."
Manawatu's former Black Cap pace bowler Michael Mason said after the game that Goodin's bowling spell made the difference in the end.
The game was in the balance from the moment Bay of Plenty captain Jono Boult won the toss on Friday morning and shirked the usual trend for defending Hawke Cup captains by fielding first. An early wicket got the Bay off to a good start and they were on top when they had Manawatu 62/3, thanks to early wickets to Sean Davey, Tom Clout and Boult. But opening batsman and wicketkeeper Bryn Cleaver, who is a first cousin of Bay of Plenty Black Cap Kane Williamson, scored a fine century and put together good partnerships with his brother Dane (21) and then Bevan Small (67), before he was out for 128 with the score at 236/5. Cleaver's hundred came off 211 balls and contained 13 boundaries hit across the bowling green outfield at the Bay Oval.
Star allrounder Brett Hampton and Davey then ripped through the Manawatu tail to have the game evenly poised with the visitors 267-8 at stumps. Next morning Goodin took the last two Manawatu wickets quickly but the Bay innings started poorly with consistent opening batsmen Drysdale, Carter and Tom MacRury (in his debut innings) all out cheaply to have the Bay tenuously placed at 57/3.
Bharat Popli once again proved his worth for the Bay making 59, before he was out in somewhat controversial circumstances, but his partnership of 56 with skipper Boult had stopped the rot. Boult and new batsman Hampton took the score through to 148/5 before Boult played a loose stroke and was caught at point.
Not for the first time this season it was left to Hampton to get the Bay home and in conjunction with Mitch McCann and Tim Clarke, he got the Bay through to 252/8 before Hampton was bowled by a shooter for a superb 89. But Manawatu closed out the innings quickly to leave the Bay frustratingly 19 runs short of the crucial first innings lead.
There was no choice now but to go out and attack the Manawatu batsmen in their second innings. Century maker Cleaver was knocked over early by Davey and Boult snared the other opener to leave Manawatu 55/2 going into the final day's play yesterday.
The wicket was occasionally keeping low, making it a tough day in prospect for batting. Goodin was the star on the final morning, picking up three wickets, as the Bay put Manawatu under intense pressure to have them chewing uncomfortably on their lunch at 139/6 and an overall lead of 158 with just four wickets left.
Goodin wasted no time getting back into the action, taking two quick wickets after lunch, including danger man Small for 39, before Hampton had the last two batsmen nicking through to keeper Clarke for Manawatu to be all out for 188. Goodin finished with well-deserved figures of 5/72 off 25 overs, with Hampton taking three wickets and Davey and Boult one each.
So to retain the Hawke Cup, Bay of Plenty needed to score 207 off 37 overs at 5.56 runs per over. Carter and Drysdale got the Bay's second innings off to a great start, with both players looking assured and keeping up with the required run rate. Their 100 partnership came off just 103 balls and set the scene for Hampton to finish the game off in style - and give the Northern Districts selectors another excuse to come up with as to why they don't pick him - with a quick fire 41 not out.