Challenge Match - Zone 2
[Holder] Hamilton vs [Challenger] Hawke's Bay
Galloway Park, Hamilton
14-16 February 2020
Result: Hamilton defended the Hawke Cup on the first innings
Hawke's Bay spinner Jayden Lennox (4-84) claimed three wickets in the morning session whilst captain Jake Smith (3-49) bowled Matt Wallbank for his third to finally wrap up the Hamilton innings after drinks - by which time the defenders had reached a hefty 452 at Galloway.
Overnight batsmen Keir Bettley and Freddy Walker had taken their stand to 60 before the wickets began to tumble in quick succession - but by now the match was never going to finish in anything but a draw.
With a 286-run first-lead to Hamilton, the Cup was secure as the captains shook hand, Hawke's Bay heading in for a cold drink or two after the best part of two days in the dirt.
Hamilton will now meet Zone 3 challenger Canterbury Country at the same ground in a fortnight's time.
Hamilton opening batsman Elliot Santner batted on and on, taking his side into a first-innings lead and then some with an impressive feat of concentration on another warm day at Galloway Park.
Having begun the day on 21*, Santner reached his century late in the middle session, after almost six hours in the middle, and would go on to a career-best knock for his province.
After Hawke's Bay skipper Jake Smith had broken his patient 47-run second-wicket stand with Joe Walker, Santner picked up the pace as he partnered with BLACKCAP BJ Watling for a 132-run stand for the next wicket to ease past Hawke's Bay's first innings total of 166.
Watling would hit five boundaries in his half century, going on to 58 before he became Smith's second victim of the day, the Test batsman caught by Christian Leopard after more than two hours' toil.
Hawke's Bay would pick up a further two wickets in the following 13 overs, Angus Schaw getting former white-ball BLACKCAP Anton Devcich caught behind cheaply before spin lead Jayden Lennox trapped Peter Bocock just after tea after a brisk 32.
At 310 for five, however, the horse had bolted - Hamilton's lead now 144 with Mitch Santner's younger sibling still glued to the crease.
Santner raised his 150 (15x4, 3x6) whilst closing in on his eighth hour, Keir Bettley now in support as they put the Hamilton 350 on the tins with a single off Lennox's 37th over.
A smidgen past that eight-hour milestone, finally Santner was gone: Angus Schaw picking up his third wicket at 355 for six, the Hamilton lead by now 189. Santner's 157 came off 386 balls, in 482 minutes.
By stumps Hamilton led by 228 at 294 for six heading into the final day, Keir Bettley 29* and Freddy Walker 25*.
Despite having won the toss and batted on a scorching Waikato day, by lunch, Zone 2 challenger Hawke's Bay's scorecard read more like a side sent in on a greentop.
At 89 for five at lunch on a flat deck in suburban Hamilton, little had gone right for a strong challenger - Brad Schmulian, Bayley Wiggins, Jayden Lennox, Christian Leopard and Ben Stoyanoff all having represented the Central Stags this season.
Hamilton, likewise, fielded one of their strongest line-ups in recent years, including BLACKCAP BJ Watling, ND's Anton Devcich, Jimmy Baker, brothers Joe and Freddy Walker and Peter Bocock. Talk about a clash of the titans in provincial cricket.
With former international umpire Billy Bowden umpiring, it was a stellar affair at humble Galloway Park where recent drainage work meant the slow outfield in places had an unkempt look about it, like the intersection of a fairway and the rough, with sandy channels for good measure.
Boundaries were notoriously hard to come by in the previous challenge, but Hawke's Bay's more immediate concern was genuine wicket deliveries coming their way in swift succession.
First change Matt Wallbank did the early damage, picking up Stags duo Wiggins (edging behind to keeper Watling in his Test series warmup) and Brad Schmulian (likewise) inside the first 14 overs.
After a 36-run opening stand, Wiggins had taken a nasty blow on the forearm and would eventually be subbed out from wicketkeeping when Hamilton's innings got underway later in the day.
Captain and fellow opening batsman Jake Smith would hold out for almost two hours for his 19 as wickets kept crashing at the other end. Matt Edmundson departed scoreless against Baker, and Leopard was trapped cheaply by Hamilton veteran Michael Dodunski.
With most of the top order gone, the challengers felt the pressure and, despite a rearguard stand of 34 for the sixth wicket between Angus Schaw and (25) Dominic Thompson (18), and 45 for the last wicket between Lennox (37*) and Stoyanoff (18), Hawke's Bay folded for just 166.
ND seamer Baker had mopped up with 4-56 while Wallbank added one further wicket to finish with a handy three-for after his key twin initial breakthroughs, Watling picking up three catches behind the sticks in the first two sessions.
Beginning their response after tea, Hamilton then battened down the hatches for the afternoon as they looked to lay the foundation of a first innings lead.
They would lose only one wicket during the hot afternoon when, after almost two hours, Schaw finally broke through in the 26th over with the wicket of Anish Desai (38), caught by Leopard at 57 for one.
With Watling still padded up, the outlook for Saturday may be a long day in the dirt for the challengers with Elliot Santner set to resume on 21*, the hosts trailing by 103 with nine wickets in hand.