Cricket: Cup game on Howzat

By Gary Hamilton-Irvine

For the first time in 26 years, Smallbone Park will stage a Hawke Cup match.

The last time the prestigious competition visited Rotorua's premier cricket ground was 1987, in a match between Bay of Plenty and Horowhenua.

A win next weekend at Smallbone Park will see this year's Bay of Plenty cricket team become the most successful in the province's history.

They have already defended the cup twice this month, after taking it off Hamilton in January, making it their longest Hawke Cup defence to date.

The Bay of Plenty team will play off against South Canterbury in their final Hawke Cup match of the season, starting next Friday.

The long-standing competition is contested between the top cricket districts in New Zealand and is played in a three-day format.

Rotorua-based cricket club BOP Indians batsman Bharat Popli has played a big hand in the Bay's success.

Popli scored his sixth century for the province in last weekend's Hawke Cup match against Canterbury Country, a record for Bay of Plenty cricket.

The 22-year-old said he was looking forward to returning to Smallbone for next weekend's clash.

"I always enjoy playing at Smallbone, it's my home ground now."

He said it was hard to pinpoint why the team were going so well but all the players had a good attitude.

"The trainings we do have been great and no one is complacent. We are all pushing each other forward," he said.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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