FMG Northern are up and running in Northland's premier cricket grade with a blockbuster one-wicket win over Westech Automotive Maungakaramea on Saturday.
Chasing 243 off their 40 overs at Kerikeri High School, Northern looked dead and buried when they were reduced to 137/7 with 13 overs left in the Lion Red Cup round three fixture game.
Stand up No 8 batsman Brandon Peck, who struck the ball impeccably from minute one to score 70 from 36 balls and guided his side to the win with a boundary and with three balls to spare.
Peck, who played for Whangārei Boys' High School last season, showed incredible maturity to orchestrate his side's chase of a formidable total against a talented Maungakaramea outfit and in the process, the team earned their first win of the competition.
"I just went out there thinking if we can hit two boundaries an over and not leave too many going into the last 10 [overs], I thought it was possible," Peck said.
"When I started middling it more and the run-rate started going down to sevens and sixes [per over], I thought, 'we can actually do this'."
Peck, who also took two wickets, said he was often considered a stronger bowler than batsman so he was happy to show his skills in the middle. The young all-rounder said the future was bright for the new team.
"With a lot of younger players, we are not really considered top of this league but we've definitely got enough good, young talent to go the full way in the competition."
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Peck's innings was just what the doctor ordered after a mini collapse through the middle order, which saw five wickets fall for 25 runs. Player/coach Harry Darkins, who was dismissed without scoring batting at five, said Peck's effort together with the win blew him away.
"I've never seen [Peck] bat like that, he just middled everything, it was unreal," Darkins said.
"To be fair, Maungakaramea are probably the best team on paper in the competition so I'm pretty happy."
With fairly short boundaries straight, Darkins said he wasn't disappointed with his team's effort in the field and with the ball. However, Darkins admitted he thought a win was unlikely when his side needed over 100 runs with three wickets left.
"I was hoping that we would put up a bit of a fight [at that point] and maybe get to 190-200 and make it a bit more respectable, but obviously Brandon hasn't been known for that but he played the innings of his life.
"It was the best innings I've seen from a high school kid batting in the lower order in that scenario, and I've played a lot of cricket."
Maungakaramea would have been confident going into the second innings after opener Chris Page scored 102 off 99 balls which was complemented by captain Neal Parlane who made a quick-fire 25 off 16 balls at the end of the innings, but it wasn't to be.
The young Northern side added to their weekend of success with a seven-wicket win over Duracrete Products City yesterday at Kensington Park in a catch-up game from round one. Batting first, City looked odds on to go past 200 at 61 for no loss after 13 overs.
Northern then put the brakes on City's innings with an inspired bowling effort from off-spinner Sam Webb who took five wickets, in partnership with Darkins who took two. At 97/6, City recovered to bat out their innings, scoring 161.
Despite losing two wickets early, Northern recovered nicely through overseas import Nick Hammond and Kian Bird who put on 95 runs for the third wicket. Hammond fell in the 26th over for 59 but the damage was done, Northern completing their second chase in two days with 8.4 overs to spare, Bird finishing on 61 not out.
Motel Sierra Kamo also found success on Saturday, winning their second game of the season against Kensington Tavern Onerahi Central at Kensington Park. After winning the toss on a humid day in Whangārei, Onerahi elected to bat but were quickly on the back foot at 35/3 after 11.3 overs.
A small fightback for the batting side was led by Fletcher Coutts and overseas import Ben Allcock, who scored 30 and 33 respectively, but it was short-lived as Kamo paceman Nathan Parkes cleaned up the tail, taking the final four wickets (all bowled) to leave Onerahi to defend 141.
Kamo opener Dylan Clark led his side's chase well with an unbeaten 47 off 98 balls. It wasn't all plain sailing for the men in black however, as Onerahi had them seven down before Kamo hit the winning runs with almost three overs to spare.
Onerahi player Sam Walker said he was pleased with his side's effort in the field and felt they weren't far away from taking the win.
"It was just if we could have squeezed out 15 to 20 more runs, it would have made all the difference," he said.
"The fielding was pleasing because we didn't drop a catch or anything, compared to previous weeks when we've been a sluggish in the field, [on Saturday] I actually thought we were spot on."
With three losses from three games, Onerahi have some real work to do to move up the table. Walker hoped with the return of Northern Districts batter Henry Cooper, another overseas import and a player coming back from university, it would give his side the boost they needed.
"No one obviously wants to start with three defeats in three games, but we were only 15 to 20 runs away from winning all three of those games."
In the other game of round three, Kaipara Flats escaped with a 10-run win over City after the home side posted just 133/9 from 32 overs batting first at the Bourne Dean Domain on Saturday.
Kaipara No 6 batsman Sean Mee top-scored with 24 as the visitors put the screws to the home side, City bowlers Scott Galloway and Thiru Anath taking three wickets apiece.
In response, City were sitting comfortable at 68/3 after 12 overs but a collapse which saw six batsmen dismissed after scoring just 30 runs collectively, gave Kaipara their third win from as many games.
Kaipara's Jack Beaven and Michael O'Flaherty stood out with the ball, taking three wickets each.
Saturday's round four fixtures (40 overs/12.30pm start):
City v Maungakaramea at Maungakaramea Domain, Maungakaramea
Kaipara Flats v Kamo at Bourne Dean Domain, Kaipara
Northern v Onerahi Central at Kensington Park 4, Whangārei