Team Cricket has taken a 3-2 lead overall in the Black Clash rivalry despite a heroic performance from Kieran Read for Team Rugby at Christchurch’s Hagley Oval.
Read took three wickets and scored 73 runs for the men in red but was unable to get them over the line as Team Cricket held on for a six-run win on an evening full of fine batting, bowling and banter.
Team Cricket openers Hamish Marshall and Anton Devcich got their side off to superb start as they punished the Team Rugby bowlers with an explosive first few overs at Hagley Oval.
Team Rugby gave the ball to Richie McCaw and Jordie Barrett to start the bowling attack but neither could find a breakthrough as Team Cricket raced out to 103/0 after eight overs led by Marshall’s 24-ball fifty.
That prompted a change from Team Rugby captain Read who brought himself and his slow spin bowling into the mix to cause some chaos.
He did just that.
With his second ball of the night, Read made Devcich sky a ball to Israel Dagg for the first wicket of the evening in the ninth over.
That saw former Wallaby Nick “The Honey Badger” Cummins take the crease and after some fun with Read, he too was dismissed for just one run as Team Cricket sat at 111/2 midway through their innings and looking to push on for 200.
Read did his best to deny them though, snaring the crucial wicket of Marshall soon after with the 13-Test Black Cap gone for 72 from 32 deliveries.
With Peter Fulton departing for just five as Read’s third wicket, Team Cricket’s promising start had turned into a freefall as their 103/0 had become 139/5 in just six overs.
That left Team Cricket relying on an Australian to get them out of trouble with current Australia men’s coach Andrew McDonald doing his best to anchor the innings in the middle of the order.
With some help from Nathan McCullum, he managed to get the runs ticking over again but was eventually run out by some fine Team Rugby fielding for 27 runs off 16 balls.
Todd Astle, the only member of Team Cricket still currently playing professionally, chipped in 11 runs but he was stopped in his tracks by Team Rugby wildcard and former Black Cap Andrew Ellis.
Ellis dismissed Astle before taking a superb caught-and-bowled against Daniel Vettori to send the former Black Caps captain back to the clubhouse on a golden duck and with it gave himself a hat trick ball.
Chris Martin defended the milestone delivery though as Team Cricket finished off 198/9; Marshall the best of the batting from the first innings while Read’s impressive figures of 23-3 were a standout for Team Rugby.
That left a target of 199 for Team Rugby to chase and it was up to Read and Dagg to get the response going.
Read gave them a promising start as he launched former Black Caps bowler Chris Martin for six in the second over although he lost his opening partner soon after with Dagg edging a Kyle Mills delivery to the slips for an easy catch by Astle.
The former All Blacks skipper wasn’t fazed though as he continued a fine evening at Hagley Oval with boundaries off both Mills and Martin.
In fact, he even briefly channeled Black Clash legend Tom Walsh during his innings as he sent his bat flying while knocking Cummins for a four; a few balls later he had his fifty off 28 deliveries.
At the other end, Neil Broom was happy to provide support but his time didn’t last long after he chopped a McCullum ball back onto his stumps; his innings finishing up as 32 from 23 and leaving Team Rugby at 93/2 midway through their innings as young Chiefs player Kaylum Boshier joined Read at the crease.
Finally Team Cricket got the man they wanted in the 15th over though with Mills forcing Read to sky a ball to McCullum bringing his innings to a close at an impressive 73 from 45 ball.
That left Team Rugby needing 73 runs from their final five overs but and while the target seemed daunting, they still had their “double play” up their sleeve which doubles the runs they score for a single over.
Pressure continued to build though as Jono Hickey [two runs from three balls] went two balls later off a poor strike from a Vettori ball.
With Cummins called in for his second over, Team Rugby decided it was time to pull out their double play and try to rack some runs off the Honey Badger.
Boshier started strong with two fours from the first three balls but Cummins responded well to give up just four runs from the final three balls.
That left Team Rugby at 152/4 and needing 47 runs from the final 18 balls of the game and despite some late fireworks from Boshier [44 from 24] and Ellis [29* from 14]Team Cricket managed to hold them off.
It means Team Cricket now takes a 3-2 series lead in the exhibition match with Duco Events’ David Higgins looking to bring Black Clash back again next year potentially at a new destination, noting Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton and Dunedin have all yet to host a game.