His portfolio was primarily as legspinner but when the Lindisfarne College 1st XI desperately needed an opening batsman Sam Ferguson put his hand up last month.

Now Ferguson, a former lower-order batsmen, seems to be enjoying the sound of willow on leather as much as the velvety feel of the spittle shine in the Hawke's Bay Cricket Association division one competition.

"My bowling was going really well, actually, and the bat kind of came to the hand and it was going really well at the end of last season so I thought why not," says the 16-year-old right-hander after carving up 163 off 61 balls, including 24 boundaries and seven sixes at a strike rate of 267.2 against St John's College 1st XI last month. He following it up with 100 runs from 87 balls, including 14 fours and three sixes, at a strike rate of 11.9 against Tremains Napier Boys' High School in a Stephen Hill Motors Hastings div one (RC MacInnes Cup) championship 45-over match last Saturday.

To date, the Year 12 pupil has scored 479 runs at 68.4.

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Ferguson says regular opener Fergus Whyte was away for a few games so he thought why not face the new ball after batting pretty well at the end of last summer.

"I go to the crease, keep my mind clear and the players around me help me quite a bit," says the teenager who was attending the Hawke's Bay under-17 boys' trials at Nelson Park, Napier, yesterday afternoon.

Fuelled with confidence, he finds the ball is coming off the bat quite well and has discovered T20s help release the pressure valve.

The Colin Schaw-coached Lindisfarne side have retained the twenty20 division one crown after beating Taradale senior men in the semifinal and then emulating that feat against Cornwall senior men in the final on November 3, at Cornwall Park.

The team had lost their opening pool match three weeks ago by six wickets to Hastings Boys' High School 1st XI before overwhelming St John's College 1st XI by 151 runs and eclipsing NBHS by 43 runs on the way to clinching their semifinal against Taradale Seniors by seven wickets and, ultimately, the final, with eight balls to spare, by four wickets on Saturday.

In the final, Tom Klingender took 4-12 and Brandon Roberts 2-8 while batsmen Fred Gibson and Sam Moore were unbeaten on 32 and 25, respectively, for the Harry Mowat-skippered Farne side.

Ferguson, a former Hereworth School pupil, had missed out on Bay under-17 selection last summer as a legspinner so he fancies his chances as a budding allrounder.

He is following in the footsteps of 18-year-old brother Tim who is playing for the Havelock North CC division one side, rather than the school 1st XI, in an attempt to make the cull of the Bay under-19 squad this summer.

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Former Central Districts and Cornwall cricketer Paul Unwin is Sam Ferguson's bowling coach while Dave Castle, the Pay Excellence Bay senior men's representative coach, mentors him in batting.

Ferguson hopes to travel to England to play there in a gap year after finishing high school because parents Kate and Robin are from Manchester.

Born in Palmerston North, the family settled in the Bay when he was 8.

Schaw says Ferguson impressed him in the pre-season stage.

"What's kind of interesting about Sam is that nothing seems to faze him so he just goes out to play," says the former Bay senior men's rep coach. "He's not great technically but hits the ball really well and he tends to make some good decisions when he's at the batting crease.

Lindisfarne team manager and teacher Rob Hay echoes similar sentiments of Ferguson.

Lindisfarne team in the final: Sam Ferguson, Fergus Whyte, Harry Mowat (c), Bailey McDonald, Hunter Lowe, Freddie Gibson, Jack Hammond, Sam Moore, Brandon Roberts, Tom Klingender, Fred Mowat.

Coach: Colin Schaw.
Manager: Rob Hay.