The Christchurch South Karamata Intermediate team turned heads and raised intrigue as they topped the pool in the CJCA tournament held from the 4th to the 5th of March.
Relieved to be playing at all under our Level 2 COVID restrictions, a limited but allowed number of family supporters showed up to watch our extraordinary run to the semi-finals. Led by 2 extremely talented Year 8s, Will and Spencer, our composite Year 7 and 8 team were given the belief to battle with the best in our city.
On the first day of the tournament, the coin tosses went our way. On both occasions the boys judged that setting the tone of the game with their batting was the best chance to acquire victory.
We played St Andrews first with Will and Spencer put in as our opening combo to maximise their damage potential. The boys were ravenous for runs from the get go and put on a 140 run opening partnership. When Will departed for a superbly constructed 51 in the 15th over, the onus was on Kaden, Quinn, Daniel and Leo to rotate the strike to keep our run rate high. Their cameo innings assisted Spencer in reaching a splendid 85 not out and our innings of 165 meant that St Andrews had to keep up with a demanding run rate per over of 8.5.
Our bowling attack had some neat variations with swing, pace, nagging medium and spin all on offer. Every boy asked to bowl had to find a way to be resilient against what was going to be an onslaught of a response from St Andrews. We headed into our fielding innings with confidence high thanks to the number of runs in our account.
Spencer humiliated the St Andrews opener with a ripper, bowling him for a golden duck. But the St Andrews mindset was to attack and they were at all times in touch with our run rate.
It would be fair to say that in our first game we found our fielding was still a work in progress with skill development needed in getting the body position correct for fielding or catching and making sure the ball was watched into the hand before looking up for the throw in. However, under the threat of extreme run rate pressure, St Andrews threw their blades and this created opportunities for a break through. The combination of Lochlan M's accurate line and length bowling with Roi's glorious leg breaks meant that partnerships were kept short and wickets splintered in regular intervals. Lochlan walked away with a 3 for from his 4 over spell and ultimately the combined efforts our bowling attack led to St Andrews being bowled out for 133 in the 17th over.
Our second game was against Cobham Intermediate. Whatever Spencer and Will had to eat for lunch fuelled them with awesomeness as again they put on a 119 run opening partnership. Will was the first wicket to go shook his head disappointedly as he trudged back to the team as he had only made 53! Daniel, assured of his own ability and hitting aggressively, made a capable partner for Spencer as he compiled a sensational boundary laden century. News of this achievement quickly went around the park. When CSKI was done, we had compiled 201 runs.
Cobham had definite power in their batting line up, with the son of a Black Cap being particularly punishing. He had a score to settle against Spencer going into our fielding innings and parked him for 6 at one point. The boundaries were flowing well for Cobham against our pace attack and their score ticked over 50 at only the 6 over mark. Our response? Roi, our revelatory legspinner! A spitting leg break crept under another gigantic slash and the formidable batter was crestfallen to watch the bails sail!
The rest of the Cobham top 5 contributed boundaries and the odd single here and there. To keep up with a run rate of 10 an over, someone special needed to take the game deep and they could not find that hero.
Only 5 wickets fell, 2 for Roi, 2 for Lochlan M and 1 for Spencer. 3 great catches stuck in our hands in this match with Kaden making an excellent running effort. Will saved a spilled caught and bowled attempt from Lochlan M. Spencer took a screamer of a caught and bowled that spun him around as he wrestled to control the heat coming off it.
Day 2 started with the sun still low in the sky and the Hagley grass sparkling with dew. We lost the toss in our final pool game against St Thomas and were asked to bat. A wet ball and damp ground changed the nature of our batting somewhat!
For the first time, one of our openers went cheaply and we were forced to consolidate our position. After a run out and a streaky 36 run partnership with Roi just going for it, Spencer started batting with Lachlan S. These two boys put on 53 precious runs for the 4th wicket. Approaching the 15th, with our team score ticking toward 100, finally, Spencer looked to break the shackles. However his innings ended on 48 and it was up to Kaden, Leo G and then Leo D to take us to a total. We ended up with 118, by far our slowest knock.
The boys rallied before taking the field, promising to back each other with tight bowling and high quality fielding. What was to follow can only be described as the Miracle on Deans Avenue.
Spencer and Will bowled their quota of 4 overs each. We had them one wicket down but St Thomas knew to take singles and block out the boys good ones. The pitch had dried out so any poor balls now raced to the boundary. We had shelled 3 catches. Our other bowlers were going to be severely examined by them.
St Thomas did tick along with a required run rate well, initially. As their team score approached the 90s, however, Lachlan M, Roi, Reuben and Lachlan S kept the pressure on enough for wickets to start tumbling. This set the stage for young Quinn to blow the game right open. Starting to wilt under scoreboard pressure, St Thomas pushed for desperate singles. In Quinn's last 2 overs, the 18th and the 20th, 2 run outs and 2 catches left St Thomas stranded on 118 as well! Our last pool game had somehow ended in a draw! A clear victor needed to be determined by way of a bowl off!
Our 5 boys stood forward and alternated bowling at 3 stumps with the St Thomas lads. Each of the first 4 bowlers got within millimetres of clipping the wickets. The task fell once again to Quinn, our number 5. With the same run up and same speed he regularly bowls at, the ball crashed into middle and off magnificently! Our boys let out an almighty cheer, then quickly composed themselves to watch the St Thomas number 5 try and repeat this feat. When the ball bounced over leg we found we had rescued a game by the tiniest of margins.
Topping a pool is unprecedented for Christchurch South Boys cricket teams. These boys had gutsed their way into the semi-finals. Did we have it in us to win one more game?
Our next opponent was Heaton. Rich with talented Year 8s in Prems teams, this opposition were well known to Will and Spencer. Heaton won the toss and elected to bat first. After the first 10 overs, Heaton had scored 72 for 2, with Will and Roi earning some scalps. We were convinced that a target around 140 would be achievable. Heaton had one ominous batter who was set and he teed off in the second 10. Our fielding and bowling was put to task and heavily laid into. Leo D claimed the damage dealer but this innings had plundered us. Heaton set a mountain of a score to climb to: 181!
Spencer and Will accepted the challenge and the riposte started magnificently for us. Their partnership raced to 50 off 6 overs. Will hit with aggressive shots over the field while Spencer kept boundaries ticking with textbook boundaries. Unfortunately, a probing good ball stalled Spencer's resistance and he nicked off for 15. For us to get anywhere near close, Will would need to take us there.
The innings that Will went on to produce was memorable for its determination and gutsiness. Against such a high quality attack, he made batting look simple. Heaton were ultimately forced to play manipulative fields which would see Will get off strike so they could attack our other batters. Will was wise to this but in order to keep up with 9 an over, he had no choice but to take the bait and hope our other boys could stand up to the examination from the opposition bowlers. It would have been tough watching his CSKI batting partners getting run through with such efficiency. In the 18th over our fight ran out and Will was left with a score of 89 not out. We were 48 runs short.
The CSKI run to the semi finals was an absolute pleasure to be a part of. The boys can be extremely proud of their individual contributions that took us this far. It was two days of fantastic action and drama with all the beauty the sport can offer. Thank you boys for being such great warriors for our school!