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“I wouldn’t know what it was like to bat on, I only faced two balls,” Ben O’ Connor from the Palmerston North Boys’ High School First XI cricket team laughs.
Last week the perennial contenders confirmed their place at the National finals in Christchurch in December by bowling Nelson College out for 56 in the Central Districts Regional final.
Dire weather turned the Manawaroa Park pitch into a formidable assignment for batsmen.
“We were all out for 124 in the 49th over. The weather definitely helped the seamers, but it wasn’t so much the pitch was impossible to bat on, we just put the ball in good places and the fieldsmen backed it up,” captain O’Connor recalls.
Jack Harris, Bryn Wilson and off spinner O’Connor each sneered two wickets in the 68-run victory, a definite highlight of the season.
“The standard of the local competition has been really high. Black Cap Adam Milne has played a couple of games returning from injury. Every side has been competitive,” O’Connor (on strike/Photo Supplied) says.
O’Connor has managed two, five wicket bags this season. His decision to abort pace has been a fruitful one for the Manawatu age group rep.
“I used to bowl pace, but I found it difficult running in all the time. I started bowling spin a few years ago and found myself enjoying it and having a bit of a success.” O’Connor explains.
Slowing things down is a virtue that O’Connor is learning as captain. Palmerston North lost a thrilling Super 8 final to Hamilton Boys’ High School in January when Hamilton’s final pair shared a last wicket stand of 27 runs in a low scoring affair.
“The Super 8 final was a great game of cricket and we were gutted to lose. As a captain I learned I needed to slow the game down more and not panic in my decision making to get a better result,” O’Connor reflects.
Palmerston North will be hoping to make the right decisions in December. They will be joined at Nationals by Otago Boys’ High School, Rosmini College, who upset St. Kentigern College in the Auckland decider, either one of Hutt International Boys’ School or Wellington College and the winners of Canterbury section to be determined last this year.
“We don’t play any of those schools during the season so I don’t really know what their strengths and weakness are, but I am confident we have a well balanced team and if we play well it should be pretty wide open.” O’Connor anticipates.
In the winter O’Connor plays First XI hockey. Palmerston North are the defending India Shield Champions. They missed the Rankin Cup finals by a solitary goal, despite winning six out of seven games.
“We also lost the Super 8 final which we won the year before. Our goal is to definitely make Rankin this year and win Super 8.” O’Connor concludes.