Nelson’s history in the Hawke Cup
Today Nelson Pine Griffins begin their three-day challenge with Southland for the coveted Hawke Cup. Nelson have one of the more celebrated records in Hawke Cup cricket history.
It was during two epic Nelson tenures, the first from 1958 to 1965 and the second from 1979 to 1983, that visiting provincial cricket teams would arrive in Nelson full of expectation, determined to wrest the mantle of national minor association supremacy from Nelson’s grasp.
Yet more often than not, Trafalgar Park’s notoriously flat wicket became a graveyard for the challengers as Nelson’s formidable Hawke Cup record continued to flourish.
Nelson still hold the record for the most consecutive defences, their 28-match streak from December 1958 to February 1965 well clear of the 15-match tenures achieved variously by Manawatu (1934-38) and Southland (1989-1992). Nelson’s 14-match tenure from February 1979 to February 1983 represented another indelible chapter in local cricketing history.
They’ve held the Hawke Cup on 11 separate occasions and have successfully defended the trophy 71 times.
General Manager of the Nelson Cricket Association Dave Leonard has had a lengthy tenure himself being involved in Hawke Cup fixtures from 1986 through to 2005. It began in 1986 when he was part of a team that lost the shield to Hawkes Bay and ended in 2005 with another loss to Canterbury Country. In between though was plenty of success and as Leonard explains he has “won and lost the Shield more than most people.”
In 1989 he was a member of the squad which was defeated by a strong Southland combination but in 1991 gained redemption by defeating Northland in Whangerei. That team retained the Cup for three defences but lost an epic battle in 1993 with Canterbury Country. Country batted first and scored 233. Nelson was in early trouble at 5/22 but New Zealand player Mark Douglas was at the wicket. Leonard remembers saying “If Dougy gets a hundred we will win this game.” His prophecy was about right. Douglas scored “only” 93 and Nelson lost by just eight runs. If only Dougy had got that hundred.
Leonard had one more tenure with the Hawke Cup when Nelson prized it off Hutt Valley in 1997 but then lost it to Auckland-Waitakere. This was in a short era when the big cities were allowed to have a crack and that challenging team included eight members who were in the full Auckland Shell Trophy team.
Hawke Cup cricket is a unique form of cricket and, until the advent of the four-day provincial competition several seasons ago, the three-day Hawke Cup challenge format was second only to test cricket in terms of the requirement for batsmen to occupy the crease. It’s led to some memorable performances, with Nelson cricketers still featuring prominently among the individual records.
Nelson batsmen Ian Leggat, Laurie Reade and Graeme “Monk” Lowans remain the three highest respective runscorers in the cup’s history, with Leggat, now based in Hamilton, having amassed 1968 runs in 38 challenge matches from 1948 to 1968. Reade scored 1951 runs in 35 matches between 1958 and 1973 and Lowans 1811 runs in 30 matches during the same period.
As a middle-order batsman and medium-pace bowler, Leggat also took 134 wickets, to place him third on the all-time bowling list. He played one test for New Zealand against South Africa in Cape Town in 1954.
Nelson batsman Charlie Kinzett’s innings of 272 not out against Marlborough during the 1933-34 season is still the biggest in Hawke Cup history, with Wayne Hodgson’s 265 against Taranaki in 1983-84 third best.
But it was seven seasons ago that Nelson last challenged for the Hawke Cup.
Nelson appeared to have victory in their sights against holders Hamilton in 2012 when a superb 91-run final wicket partnership between Mitchell Drummond (76 not out) and Dylan Eginton (27) helped Nelson to a 52-run first innings lead.
However, Hamilton responded superbly, scoring a quick-fire 263 in their second innings before dismissing Nelson for 93 to win outright by 118 runs.
Meanwhile in January 2011, a Team of the Century was named to mark 100 years of Hawke Cup cricket. Selection was based on the player’s outstanding performances in the Hawke Cup and also on their contribution to their district while playing, with four Nelson players, Roger Pierce, Barry Hampton, Leggat and Spence all selected in the side.
Hawke Cup Team of the Century
Mike Wright (Bay of Plenty), Roger Pierce (Nelson), Robert Anderson (Southland, Northland, Manawatu), Richard Hoskin (Southland), Brian Dunning (Northland), Ian Leggat (Nelson, Hawke’s Bay), Barry Hampton (Nelson), Dave Spence (Nelson), Gren Alabaster (captain, Southland), Alistar Jordan (Taranaki), Russell Merrin (North Canterbury), Norman Gallichan (12th man, Manawatu).