The National U18 tournament got under way at Tonga Park in Dunedin with a two day match between neighbours Canterbury and Otago.
The game finished in a draw, but Otago managed to claim first innings points thanks to a phenomenal all-round bowling display.
Otago won the toss and opted to take on the Canterbury bowling attack, a decision they would have been questioning when they found themselves at 19 for three.
The home team looked in danger of a full scale collapse until Hamish O’Brien and Ben Willemsen stemmed the flow of wickets with an important partnership. O’Brien contributed 40 for the Southerners, but Willemsen was the real hero of the innings as he made an impressive 65 in tough batting conditions.
Alec Hodgson added 20 and Jacob Duffy also scored 11 valuable runs at the end of the innings to help Otago to 182 all out.
It seemed to be a low score, but the pitch was a tough one for the batsmen and the Canterbury bowlers utilised the conditions well. Hamish Robertson was the chief destroyer and ended with figures of three for 47.
Otago new they were going to have to bowl well to have a chance of collecting first innings points and got off to the perfect start by ripping through the Canterbury top order. It was a brilliant bowling display, constantly applying pressure and not allowing the batsmen to rotate the strike. Canterbury were reeling at 27 for five and had a terrible run-rate to boot.
Glen Drake put up the most resistance with a vital 22. Freddie Anderson also made an important contribution with an unbeaten 15 to claw Canterbury up to 78. The pair found little support though and Otago won first innings points with a lead of 104 runs.
Thanks to the slow run-rates by both teams it was going to take a miracle for a second innings result and Otago batted the remaining overs out.
Tim O’Malley earned a cheer as he made an unbeaten 52 to help Otago finish the game at 150 for eight.
Canterbury will be disappointed with their batting, but will take some encouragement from their bowling performance. For Otago it’s crucial points to get their National U18 campaign underway - and bragging rights over their biggest rivals.