When you're on a cracking batting track like Nelson Park, Napier, it's fair to assume the bowling and fielding will inevitably make the difference in any match.
Sure the lads still had to eke out the runs but Hawke's Bay reigned supreme on account of some tight bowling as the dust settled on pitch No 4 during the annual Central Districts Boys' Under-17 Championship today.
Yes, as clichéd as it may sound, Bay coach Craig Ross lauded the bowlers but reckoned the Toby Findlay-captained side put in a collective effort after Manawatu won the toss and chose to shine the ball.
"Well, they [Manawatu] were moving at half an over but the boys really deserved their win," Ross said of the Almak Fire & Security-sponsored Bay team who won by a yawning 104 runs after posting 249/8 in their allotted 50 overs.
No 4 Bayley Foote top scored for the hosts with 55 runs off 68 balls, including four boundaries, with No 5 Lovepreet Padda backing him up equally stoically with 47 from 69 balls, including two fours.
Left-hander Joshua Fairbrother, at first drop, chimed in with 39 runs after No 2 Toby Findlay provided a platform of 31 runs before No 6 Sam Cassidy added 30 to enhance the value of a productive middle order.
Ross said the Bay teenagers had established meaningful partnerships when it mattered and that was the key to posting a total that would have put the opposition in a mind set of when to free their arms while flirting with danger.
The mature partnerships, he said, ensured they got within the pre-knock target, albeit one run fewer.
"Look, it wasn't always easy to bat," Ross said. "It was a good strip but they bowled well."
Right-arm medium/fast merchant Jonty Fleck was the pick of Manawatu bowlers, albeit a little expensive, with 4-48 from seven overs at first change while right-arm, off spinner Regan Fleming, at second change, took 2-53 from his 10 overs.
Second-change bowler Michael Watkins, with his chinaman deliveries, was the most frugal with 1-7 from 2.3 overs as the lads in green rotated eight bowlers to come to terms with a typically benign batting strip despite the persistent drizzle overnight.
It didn't help that Manawatu had gifted 26 extras, including 17 wides and a no ball.
In trying to eclipse the total at a shade under six runs an over, the visitors hit the judder bars with openers Lachie Bradford, first, and Josh Campbell departing for 4 and 22, respectively, after right-arm medium/fast opening bowler Fred Mowat drew first blood before Tyler Annand got the next breakthrough at first change, having Padda snaffle Campbell.
Significantly the hosts had Manawatu batsmen strumming a conservative note, keeping them at under 3.5 on the desired run rate at 60/2 at the 19-over mark although opening seamer Jed Greville — in keeping with the festive season — looked like he was on the path of reciprocity with seven wides and a no ball to match the visitors' offerings.
However, a wicket-less Greville, who claimed the most wickets in the tourney, showed immense character and discipline to grind his way back to 3.63 runs an over to join other miserly bowlers who had stayed below the five-an-over ceiling to frustrate and stifle Manawatu.
Annand claimed a five-wicket bag (5-23 from eight overs) but, no doubt, he will champion the shifts from fellow first-change medium/fast bowler Liam McCarthy (0-16, including a maiden) and left-arm orthodox Fairbrother (2-21) as well as Mowat (2-31) and off spinner Harry Cooper (0-19) in making the wicket feel like a rush-hour shopping mall during Christmas.
"He [Annand] is the youngest guy in the team who worked really hard off season on his bowling and conditioning to pull out some really beautiful yorkers and really changed the game so I'm really happy for him today," Ross said of the lanky Taradale High School seamer in his first year with the team.
He said bar a few overs where the Manawatu batsmen had asserted themselves, the Bay bowlers had taken the game by the scruff of the neck with accurate line and commanding lengths.
"We also had some very good fielding in the inner rim that stopped a lot of runs," he said, singling out Cooper and Fairbrother for compounding the pressure with their tweaks.
The difference, he felt, was the Bay were blessed with seven economical bowlers while other opposition had, for argument's sake, three who were not so skilled, thus taking the foot off their rivals' throats when push came to shove.
They had demolished Horowhenua-Kapiti by 243 runs on Monday when Findlay scored 136 runs from 96 balls, including 13 boundaries and four sixes, while fellow opener James Rawnsley added 80 from 99 balls.
It was tougher the next day when they beat Taranaki by 122 runs with Rawnsley and Findlay making half tons but No 4 Baylee Foote top scoring with 67.
Greville, who had taken 4-29 as the pick of bowlers against Horowhenua Kapiti, followed it up with 4-43 while Mowat claimed 3-22 as the most frugal on day two.
However, the game against Marlborough was abandoned due to persistent drizzle after 8.4 overs.
"Marlborough probably ended up being the weakest opposition in our group so, for all intents and purposes, we should have won that game," Ross said.
Manawatu first drop Fleming led the chase with 34 runs and No 4 Fleck pitched a sound case for a budding co-operative with 32 of his own before Padda ran out the latter but the batsmen weren't maintaining a decent strike rate.
Ross felt Manawatu were guilty of not putting on a polished fielding performance on the platform of a "useful" bowling attack.
"When we started to run a bit harder, we had started to put a lot of pressure on them through a conscious effort in the middle part of the game."
He said the Foote and Padda partnership was pivotal in the middle at a phase when they were under the pump a little.
"I thought Sam [Cassidy], in his first year, came in and it was a really good 30 to kick off the three to four overs so it was a good knock," he said of the Lindisfarne College pupil.
He saluted Findlay for his leadership on and off the park and highlighted he was the only batsman in the five-day tourney to score a century.
Ross said a tournament team would be released on Monday with some Bay players likely to be in the mix with other talent from the CD catchment area.
"Realistically, the CD team will have a lot of Hawke's Bay boys, I believe, on Monday which I think is a reflection of a team who were far superior in their skills set to other teams in the tournament, which is a really good sign for Hawke's Bay cricket."