As the country chews the fat on the merits of getting the balance right between white-ball and red-ball diets in resurrecting the state of cricket on the global stage, it's reassuring to see high schoolboys taking ownership in Hawke's Bay.

Forget for just a moment the result — Napier Boys' High School first XI lost outright to Palmerston North Boys' High firsts — to take satisfaction from the knowledge that NBHS coach Mike Pawson and his counterpart, Scott Davidson, didn't shy away from a three-day, red-ball match this week when the opportunity arose.

Well, incidentally, if you factor in the Sky Blues had played back-to-back, limited-overs matches last weekend — beating arch rivals Hastings Boys' High School by 160-odd runs on Saturday and then following it up with a six-wicket victory over St John's College of Hastings the following day in their senior Bay club competition — you can argue NBHS had actually played a five-day test.

Oh, by the way, the temperatures were soaring to the mid-to-late 30C mark so it was no jolly jog across the NBHS school grounds, either.

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"We decided that we wanted to challenge the boys even more to show their patience and their skills under pressure so, with the permission of the headmasters, we pushed it out to three days," says Pawson of Davidson who is a former Manawatu senior men's representative cricketer.

Pawson, a former Central Districts rep, says the schools had traditionally competed in one-dayers but in 2018 it had mutated to a two-day affair.

However, last year he and Davidson pushed the envelope another day after an NBHS v PNBHS match at a slow, low wicket had petered to a no result at the school grounds at the other end of the now defunct Manawatu Gorge road.

"I think it'll carry on that way after we both agreed that that's the way we want to keep this game, as long as we possibly can," says the coach who also represented his country at the World Indoor Championship in South Africa in the mid-1990s.

The two sides played the match from Monday, using ice packs wrapped in towels to wrap around their necks on days when drinks breaks weren't just an opportune time to connect with mates on social media platforms to plan the night out.

NBHS first XI cricketers gravitate towards to gather their thoughts for a plan of action soon after claiming a PNBHS wicket at t school grounds this week. Photo / Paul Taylor
NBHS first XI cricketers gravitate towards to gather their thoughts for a plan of action soon after claiming a PNBHS wicket at t school grounds this week. Photo / Paul Taylor

Pawson says the games simulate matches the talented teenagers are likely to replicate if they graduate to two-day Furlong Cup encounters — to earn the right to challenge the Hawke Cup holders over three days for the symbol of minor association supremacy in New Zealand — or the first-class, four-day Plunket Shield competition in men's domestic cricket.

Excel from there and it's not a stretch of anyone's imagination that a stint with the Black Caps will beckon in the five-day test arena.

"It's what they call the daily grind of getting up in the morning to go again," says the bloke who runs the cricket programme at Napier Boys' High and also helps prepare the wickets at the school as a groundsman.

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He says the NBHS first XI players were coming off a fair whack of cricket in the past fortnight for the school alone. That included the Super 8 tournament at New Plymouth for four days as well as the demands of travelling. It had equated to 11 days of playing cricket.

"It's mentally draining as much as it is physically so I know there are some tired boys today but it gives them some sort of idea that if they want to make a career out of this sport it's not that easy."

Earning the stripes aside, they learn how to factor in the elements although they have been showing promising signs.

"Surprisingly some of the boys had more energy than they had in the first morning because we had played five days in a row."

On the flip side, he feels the three-dayers elevate different skill sets not so obvious in the abbreviated formats.

"Some of the boys have never played [longer versions] before so for a couple of them it was their first time this week."

That may entail the teenagers spending anywhere from 40 to 80 overs out in the field.

Son and captain Samuel Pawson, in his fourth year in the first XI, says it's good experience despite the toil over three days.

"We're learning to adjust over three days and there's a different way you can go about playing the game," says the 16-year-old who'll attend Year 12 this year.

Samuel, who isn't batting because of a knee injury, claimed 5-37 with his seamers, as an opening bowler, in the second innings.

He says the schoolboys are coming to the realisation that they can adopt a good balance of defensive and attacking batting in ticking over a healthy run rate.

"We're learning that there are different ways to playing from white-ball cricket to red-ball cricket.

"If we had more two-day, three-day games in a season we would have been able to adjust by now and got a better result," says Samuel in reflecting on the result against PNBHS this week.

The scoreboard tells the daunting task of what the NBHS batsmen need to aspire to as they sheek shelter under the marquee at the school field. Photo / Paul Taylor
The scoreboard tells the daunting task of what the NBHS batsmen need to aspire to as they sheek shelter under the marquee at the school field. Photo / Paul Taylor

He says his teammates had thoroughly enjoyed the three-dayers and would like to play more despite the sweltering heat.

"We had like these ice packs in a chilly bin so we'd wrap them around our necks to stay cool," says the middle-order batsman.

NBHS also play a traditional two-day match against Wellington College in March.

For the record, NBHS didn't have their best days with the bat this week but Thomas Hall and Liam McCarthy had eked out gritty 32 runs each in their first dig while the latter had emulated his feat in the second innings as well.

"This kid showed a lot of determination for a guy who is pretty aggressive by nature so he had to play a different role," says Pawson of Hall.