Challenge Match - Zone 1
[Holder] Hamilton vs [Challenger] Bay of Plenty
Gallaway Park, Hamilton
31 January 2020 - 2 February 2020
Result: Match drawn, Hamilton retains the Hawke Cup on the first innings
Bay of Plenty's 34th direct challenge was not destined to bring home the silverware after Hamilton launched a rearguard action to save the first innings.
Veteran Brook Hatwell, who played seven first-class matches at the top of the order for ND between 2011 and 2012, and Freddy Walker, current season ND rep combined in a 98-run stand for the seventh wicket that helped Hamilton carve out a sizeable chunk of their run deficit as they resumed the first innings on the final morning.
Hatwell drew on all his experience to remain unbeaten on the last day, after almost five and a half hours at the crease.
Walker (64) meanwhile picked his way to a half century before lunch, but the fall of his wicket when Peter Drysdale broke through in the hour before the break left Hamilton with a still nervous task of finding 30 runs to secure the all important first innings lead - enough to retain the Hawke Cup in the event of a draw.
Hatwell and number nine Brown took their side by 260 for seven by the break, crucially having lost no further wickets while drawing close to the "target" of 272.
Even though they lost Brown when Drysdale struck again after the break, by now Bay of Plenty's fate was all but sealed as the hosts glided on past them, and then the 300 for good measure, in the middle session.
A draw inevitable, the captains shook hands with the defenders eight down on 306. Hamilton will be back to attempt to defend the Hawke Cup for a second time this summer in a fortnight (14-16 February 2020), against the Zone 2 challenger.
Having started the day on 83* overnight, Taylor Bettelheim continued unbeaten through the Bay of Plenty first innings.
Betteheim was last man standing on 108 not out after Hamilton seamer Matt Wallbank pocketed a quick 3-48 to wrap up the challenger's dig before lunch, while first-class seamer Jimmy Baker had added to his day-one column to finish with 3-80.
Bettelheim's invaluable resistance had taken his side to a first innings total of 271. He reached his century off 247 balls, spread across almost five hours at the crease, in true Hawke Cup style.
Despite warm and dry conditions, however, Hamilton made a disastrous start to their reply in the all-important fight for a first innings advantage.
Dominic Crombie picked up two early wickets while Chris Atkinson struck at the other end to have the Hamilton top order in tatters against the opening attack at 34/3 inside the first 17 overs.
Elliot Santner got a start, reaching 33 in a 35-run fightback for the fourth wicket, but young left-arm spinner Tim Pringle worked away to pick him up in his first spell: 69 for four, and pressure on.
Pringle would pick up another two key wickets, meanwhile the Hamilton innings saw the relatively uncommon occurrence of penalty runs awarded when the ball hit a fielding helmet behind the sticks.
A bonus, but hardly enough to help the hosts out of a spot of bother.
Keir Bettley and Matt Whitley put the Hamilton hundred on the board shortly before tea, but both would fall to Pringle in the last session, before the new ball was taken.
By stumps, Hamilton was still trailing by 109 runs with Brook Hatwell and Freddy Walker grinding it out at the crease, four wickets left in hand and the match delicately balanced, heading into the decisive day.
A first innings lead will be enough for Hamilton to retain the Hawke Cup, barring an outright.
After calling correctly, Bay of Plenty captain Ben Musgrave had no hesitation in batting at a sweltering Gallaway Park, looking to continue the challenger's strong Hawke Cup record over the past decade in BOP's 34th direct challenge overall.
Both sides featured ND regulars - Daniel Flynn and Bharat Popli for the Bay, Jimmy Baker and Freddy Walker for Hamilton; the match promising to be a hard fought affair.
Despite the early loss of Stephen Crossan, Bay of Plenty soon had their nose to the grindstone in a 56-run stand for the second wicket between Bay veteran Peter Drysdale and Popli but it was Hamilton's experienced Michael Dodunski claiming the opening day's honours.
After having removed Crossan, caught in the 10th over by Brooke Hatwell in the only wicket of the first session, Dodunski went on to claim 4-29 off his 18 overs in the heat, as Bay of Plenty lost wickets at awkward times.
Drysdale (31) carried on from 65/1 at lunch but was soon back in the pavilion, while Popli was still there at tea, with a gritty half century by his name.
However, having gone to tea on 63*, he, too, was soon back in the pavilion, departing on 67 shortly after having chalked up the BOP 150.
Taylor Bettelheim kept the runs coming for the remainder of the session, heading in on an unbeaten 83 with BOP 234 for five.