Last weekend saw seven teams travel to Taupō to participate in the Cricket Express Spring Invitational at Owen Delany Park.
The competition had teams from Taranaki, Hawkes Bay and Bay of Plenty play three games of T20 cricket each over two days to compete for the Spring Cup.
Last year only four teams participated, and with the uncertainty the last six months had brought on, there was a good chance no tournament would take place. However, hard work saw the event pull through, and it didn't disappoint.
Blue skies and sun-soaked fields provided a stunning day for the tournament's first round, where Lake Taupō' Cricket Club played Hawera United. Heavy hitting from Hawera United's opening batsman Robert Northcotte saw his side reach 50 runs in six overs, putting the pressure on Lake Taupō. Northcotte was dismissed for 43, and middle-order batsman Adan Keene blasted a quick 44 runs in his 22 balls to help Hawera post 146 runs in their 20 overs.
Lake Taupō responded well, with Habib Malik and Michael Mitchell establishing themselves at the crease and scoring a 50-run partnership to give their side a platform to launch from. Some explosive batting from Caleb Bate helped Lake Taupō take a seven-wicket victory with an over to spare.
With this result, Lake Taupō were the only Bay of Plenty side to advance to the semifinals, where they would face defending champions Taradale.
The Napier side were put in to bat, and despite Lake Taupō taking an early wicket, Taradale opener Luke Kenworthy marched forward, scoring 69 (58) and helping his side reach 151 runs. A good total, but one Lake Taupō knew they were capable of reaching if they remained focused and disciplined.
However, unlike their previous game, Lake Taupō struggled to build partnerships, and regular wickets meant they were unable to gather momentum. In the end, they fell well short and suffered a 62-run loss to finish off the first day of the tournament.
The Sunday set the stage for a chance of redemption for the teams that had lost in the earlier rounds. The results from Saturday meant Taradale played Marist Suburbs in the final and Lake Taupō would face off against New Plymouth Marist United CC to vie for third.
New Plymouth won the toss and elected to bat, but it was clear that all teams were feeling the effects of playing two games the day before. With third place on the line, Lake Taupō knew this game would come down to which team could brush off the previous day and remain sharp.
It was Taupō's focus in the field that paid dividends. From two runouts and six catches in the field, Lake Taupō restricted their opponents to only 95 runs. Special mention must be made of Moko Rivers, who seized his chances and took four catches, one of which was off his own bowling.
When Habib Malik opened the batting, he looked in good shape early. He capitalised on loose deliveries and played an aggressive style that wasn't reckless but kept the pressure on the bowlers any time he was at the crease. After 45 minutes of batting, he had brought up his 50 and was soon after caught out for 53 (41). The dismissal frustrated him, but his efforts all but cemented the final result, leaving the following batsmen only a handful of runs to collect before Lake Taupō claimed the six-wicket victory, securing third place in the Cricket Express Spring Invitational.
As the day wrapped up, teams were able to watch the final overs of the Cup final between Taradale and Marist Suburbs. The final was a low-scoring affair, with Taradale given the daunting task of defending 108 runs. However, they stepped up to the challenge and were crowned back-to-back champions.
Some 100 people made the journey to Owen Delany for what was a momentous day for local cricket.
Lake Taupō now begin their pre-Christmas campaign with the Premier side travelling to Greerton and the Reserves squad defending their home ground against the Lions this Saturday.