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The Valley Stingers beat the Owaka Bandits by 39 runs in Owaka on Saturday, to claim the Challenge Cup for the first time.
Owaka won the toss and chose to bowl in wet conditions. The Stingers' opening partnership of Morgan Culbertson and Bevan McCall, though, put on 88 for the first wicket.
Both batsmen were happy to nudge the ball around and then punish the bad balls.
When McCall departed for 39, it brought his brother Dave to the crease, and he shared an equally impressive partnership with the in-form Culbertson. McCall hit 43 runs off 36 balls to push his side up towards the 200 mark with eight overs to spare. Some power hitting towards the end from Lachie Johnston (30) took Valley to a decent total of 227 for 6 off its 40 overs.
The impressive Culbertson was dismissed for 83 in the penultimate over. Tony Miller took three for 30 off five overs for the Bandits.
In reply, the Bandits too had a good opening partnership. Jeremy Gray and Joel White batted well until Gray was run out, yet again, just shy of his half-century.
Gordon Edwards then came to the crease and batted well for the remainder of the innings, but without support.
Edwards was dismissed close to the end for 59 as the Bandits ended their 40 overs at 188 for seven. Gray's 43 was the next-highest score. The wickets were shared around the Valley bowlers, Marc Phillips taking two for 33.
The Kai Kings had a comfortable win over the Waihola Swans by five wickets in Milton.
The Kings put the Swans into bat and dismissed them for just 79 runs inside 30 overs.
The Swans' top order failed to fire, and the side was four wickets down with only 13 runs on the board. Every Kai bowler took at least one wicket. Kobe Thomson (3-19) and Orry Young (3-28) were the most destructive.
In reply the Kings took 30 overs to chase the total down for the loss of five wickets. Opening batsman Greg Webber top-scored with 24. Blair Benington (16) and William Casey (15 not out) chimed in. Brad Williams bowled well, taking two for 15 off eight overs.
The Clutha Comets beat the Lawrence Lions by 11 runs in Balclutha. The Comets batted first, and after some top order wobbles were dismissed for 142 in the 28th over. Rhiane Smith was the major contributor to the score with 61, including eight fours and two sixes. Smith shared a 71-run partnership with Nick Manston (23) to drag Clutha out of trouble.
Both Lawrence opening bowlers. Adam Wilson and Sam Angus, took two wickets each, but it was off-spinner Shane Vickery who shone, with four for seven off his four overs.
In reply the Lions were bowled out for 131 in the 23rd over. Opening batsman Ben Miller threatened to take the game away from Clutha with an impressive knock of 63. But he received little help from the rest of the order - captain Sam Wyber was the next best with 18. Nick Manston bowled well with four for 17 off six overs. Kelan Smith also deserves a mention with three for 21 off five overs.
With one week of round robin cricket left to play, the table is tight. Waihola leads, four points clear of the tied Owaka, Kai and Clutha, with Valley four points behind them.
Lawrence bows out of finals contention, but will have a big say in its game against Waihola next week.
Owaka hosts Clutha in an equally important match, and Valley hosts Kai in a Challenge Cup battle.
- Francis Parker