Hawke's Bay's first 2022 defence of minor associations cricket prize the Hawke Cup was evenly poised at the end of the first day with challenger and traditional neighbouring foes Manawatu batting through all three sessions to be 184-6 at stumps.
In fine conditions expect to last all three days at Nelson Park, Napier, Hawke's Bay captain Angus Schaw put the challengers in to bat in what is Manawatu's first Hawke Cup game since losing a defence in 2015.
Openers Mason Hughes and Bevan Small made it safely through to 50 in the first hour before first-change bowler William Clark struck with his first ball snicked by Small to wicketkeeper Kurtis Weeks.
Going to lunch at 83-2, the Manawatu batsmen had some difficulty with the spin of Schaw who was introduced for a maiden over before the break, soon after which he bowled Arana Noema-Barnett to make it 99-3 in the 41st over and then in the 47th claimed the valuable scalp of Hughes, at the crease 144 minutes before being caught by Central Districts representative Bayley Wiggins for 54.
Curtis Heaphy and Tim McGrath batted through the second session to tea at 134-4 and stoically well into the last session, bringing up the 150 in 315 minutes, before both were dismissed in the last hour, Clark striking again, with Wiggins claiming his second catch of the day with Manawatu just starting to teeter at 179-6.
Clark had remarkable figures of 2-18 off 17 overs and Schaw had 2-27 off 22 overs, each bowling 10 maiden overs during the day.
Hawke's Bay, which has what coach Christie van Wyk says is the top team available this season, started a 14th cup reign with a win by an innings and 42 runs over North Otago in Oamaru last February.
Following that third successful challenge in five years, the Bay deflected a Hamilton challenge with a win by eight wickets, and this season scored three wins by an innings in their only completed games in the Furlong Cup Hawke's Cup Zone 2 elimination series, in which Manawatu won the right to the challenge.
Among the small number of spectators on the first morning – with Central Districts Stags players practising in the nets at one end of the large oval and a dad playing cricket with the children at the other end – was former long-time Hawke's Cricket Association chairman and now archivist Harry Findlay, who was soon talking about one of the more bizarre Hawke Cup games.
It was, he observed looking out towards the latest pitched battle, just a few metres further away on the same park in April 1947, between the same two associations in the rare position of Manawatu, having held the cup for several years having agreed to play an away defence, against Hawke's Bay.
Hawke's Bay had been all out for 127, and had Manawatu reeling at 17-4 when its captain expressed his disgust over all four wickets having been leg before wicket decisions, called the team in and headed home to Palmerston North.
Officialdom deemed Manawatu had conceded and Hawke's was awarded the Cup, but had just one successful defence before the cup headed west again, to Wanganui.