The clinking sound of bottles in the changing rooms of the Hamilton team at the RAC McInnes Pavilion at Nelson Park, Napier, spoke volumes today.

It was saying the visitors already have one hand firmly on the handle of the Hawke Cup, the symbol of minor association cricket supremacy, and everything suggests they'll hit State Highway 1 with it tomorrow night.

But the clinks that would have been music to the ears of Hamilton players must have felt like the grating noise of an opening heavy door which the Pay Excellence Hawke's Bay senior men's representative team are trying their best to close.

The writing was on the wall in the first defence of the Jacob Smith-captained hosts after the batsmen were skittled for 131 runs from just 50.1 overs today for Hamilton to claim first-innings victory on the platform of the 287 they had scored from 93.4 overs yesterday.

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Only opening batsman Bayley Wiggins, who scored 40 runs, and No 5 Christian Leopard, who carved up 44 from 89 balls, showed any resolve for the cup holders.

Former Northern Districts Knights and Wellington Firebirds seamer Anurag Verma predictably cut the heart out of the Bay batsmen.

"Nah, we never think like that because we always have a beer after a good day and today the team has had a good day so it's important to have a beer but not get silly, which we won't," said Verma, who took 6-30 from 13.1 overs as well as top scoring with the bat with 37 runs at No 4 as Hamilton resume tomorrow at 6-140 and a lead of 296 runs.

"The game's not over until it gets called off," said Verma of the Kier Bettley-captained Hamilton.

The 28-year-old right armer revealed he had resorted to variations in his deliveries on a benign batting wicket where the odd ball yielded some profit.

"It was about being patient, trying to hit good areas and hanging in there."

Tomorrow, Verma said, would be about playing smart cricket in occupying the crease to make crucial decisions on whether to score or bat for time with the remaining wickets.

Hamilton coach Brook Hatwell also has tinkered with the challengers' line-up, dropping first-innings opener Michael Dodunski to No 9 in the second dig while Freddy Walker slides from No 8 to No 10 for reasons best known to them.

Asked if patience was a virtue for him, Verma replied: "Well, yeah, as you get older you learn."

The Dave Castle-coached Bay men remain positive about their hopes of holding the cup over winter in what is fast becoming Groundhog Day after they won the rights two summers ago down South and lost it in their first defence to the Bay of Plenty.

"I think we have to forget about the batting now because we've worked hard in that second innings of our bowling and managed to get six wickets," said Leopard, adding it was imperative to claim the four remaining wickets in the first session tomorrow then keep a clean sheet to prepare to launch a robust run chase towards the end of the day.

Christian Leopard (green helmet) and Bayley Wiggins were the only Hawke's Bay senior men's representative batsmen to score some runs at Nelson Park, Napier, today. Photo / Photosport
Christian Leopard (green helmet) and Bayley Wiggins were the only Hawke's Bay senior men's representative batsmen to score some runs at Nelson Park, Napier, today. Photo / Photosport

He said Wiggins had used his freedom in the top order to express himself for runs.

"For me, I came in when we were in a little bit of trouble so it was just about getting back some momentum for us so, I guess, we kept losing wickets at the wrong time and that cost us."

Leopard said the Bay didn't dwell on their mediocre batting and channelled their collective energy on taking 10 wickets smartly to chase a target in the vicinity of 350 to 370.

"The game will be decided in the first session if we get those four wickets quickly so if we can use that to our advantage we'll be looking pretty pretty and we can turn the game around pretty quick."

Leopard agreed Hamilton had the cup almost in their mini-vans.

He said Verma's experience came through in his ability to get the ball to nip around even on a flat deck.

Fellow Hamilton opener Dodunski backed up Verma with 3-27 from 10 overs, including three maidens. Walker was the most frugal with his spin, taking 1-21 from 13 overs, including five maidens.

For the Bay, Central Districts Stags batsman Bradley Schmulian, who made a golden duck when Verma rattled his furniture, rolled his sleeves to take 2-23 from nine overs, including four maidens, at second change.

Liam Dudding, Ben Stoyanoff, Leopard and Jayden Lennox claimed a scalp each.