From sixth in Super 8 to top six in New Zealand. In less than three months the reversal of form by the Tauranga Boys’ College First XI cricket team has been nothing short of remarkable. Captain Mikaere Leef is at a loss to explain his teams’ revival.
“It’s pretty interesting. I have always thought we had a team that was capable of winning Super 8, but we didn’t play well. I guess there’s been a huge attitude change. We had to harden up.” Leef theorises.
It’s the first time since 2011 Tauranga have qualified for Nationals and to accomplish that feat they had to win four matches on the trot against stiff opposition in the Northern Districts qualifiers in Hamilton.
In the first game Whangarei Boys’ High School won the toss and elected to bat on an artificial wicket but were shot out for 46. Rhys Mischewski took a wicket with the first ball of the tournament and stole the show with 6/12. He was well backed up by Finn Sears who took 2/7 off six overs and Ben Pomare who took four catches. Leef also took a great catch at gully and Scott Ellerington’s pinpoint boundary throw accounted for the last batsman. Tauranga chased down the target with 38 overs to spare.
In the second game Hillcrest High School asked Tauranga to bat first and Tauranga responded with 232/6 in a match reduced to 45 overs. Leef top-scored with 67 and then took three wickets as Tauranga achieved a crushing 156-run victory. Mischewski was to the fore again with 3/5 off six overs.
“Our fielding was a big part of our success. We really lifted our intensity and accuracy there, took our catches and put a lot of pressure on the batsmen.” Leef believes.
St. Paul’s Collegiate upset Hamilton Boys’ High School and had beaten Tauranga in their previous outing meaning they presented a tough assignment at home. Tauranga produced their best performance of the season to achieve a surprise win.
Leef finally won a toss and decided to bat first. Tauranga posted a reasonable 217 with Marcel Collett again top scoring with 63, adding 50 for the first wicket with Leaf (20) and 84 with Dominic Crombie (46). St Paul’s was bundled out for 161. Tas Carsons (whose brother Paddy was a rep cricketer at Hamilton BHS) took 3/29 off ten overs and removed a key batsman with an excellent boundary catch. He was well supported by Iman Singh who dried up the runs with 2/21 off 10 overs. St Paul’s at one stage were 95/4 but collapsed to 126/9 and a last wicket partnership of 35 was of little consequence.
The weather was consequential in the final fixture against Hamilton Boys’ High School. Typically foggy conditions made batting tough, but at least initially Tauranga started well adding 72 for the first wicket with Finn Sears belting 51. However Tauranga staggered and limped 189 off 50 overs.
Hamilton needed to make the target in 42 overs due to run rate considerations to eliminate Tauranga and qualify for a sixth consecutive Nationals. Hamilton started slowly, but responsibly to reach 47-1 after 17 overs at the drinks break. What happened next was dramatic.
“A Marcel Collett direct hit run out the Hamilton opener short of his ground. It was a great bit of fielding and triggered a collapse.” Leef recalls.
After 25 overs Hamilton was suddenly 68/6. Craig Baldry finished his spell with 2/30 from 10 overs and run outs by Leef and Collett had Hamilton on the ropes, a position from which they never recovered. Another run out by Mascall and 2/6 by Brad Howard wrapped up the match for Tauranga.
Leef regards himself as a batsman who “bowls a little pace or off spin. His highest score is 116 against Aquinas College and he has taken “a couple of four wicket bags.” He was a member of the Bay Coastland Under-19 team that won the Northern Districts regional competition in 2015/16.
In the winter he plays rugby and basketball. In September the First XI will make an historic tour to South Africa for three weeks, ideal preparation for Nationals in September when Tauranga will be looking to win their second National title. The last was in 2005 when New Zealand captain Kane Williamson was part of the squad. He was player of the tournament the next year.
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand