WHAKATANE United will contest the Western Bay reserve grade cricket final after prevailing in a tense semi-final on Saturday.
Hosting Tauranga side Sikh Sports, United made first use of the Rex Morpeth Park pitch and made 213 from their 50 overs.
At the top of the order, Chris Bartlam top scored with 69 while Tom Yates hit 63. Ruan Simenson supported with 36 and captain Pip Thickpenny chipped in with 38.
“We felt like the pitch was going to get lower and slower as the day went on so we figured batting first would give us the best opportunity to put them under pressure,” Thickpenny said.
“I thought we were maybe 20 runs short, considering the start we had but we backed our bowlers because of the slowness that was creeping into the wicket.”
The visitors started their response at a modest pace, but scraped their way toward the target and at the start of the final over, needed 10 runs for victory with one wicket in hand. But United bowler Tama Stringer wrapped up the game with the second ball, trapping the batsman in front.
“The important thing at the end was our bowlers understood that dots at the death were just as important as taking wickets so we were just trying to apply as much scoreboard pressure as we could.
“Obviously the reward was the batsman trying to step across his wicket and hit a straight one through the leg side which resulted in the winning wicket.”
The win means United will play Taupo in this Saturday’s final. Taupo have home ground advantage for the final, as they look to complete a perfect season. The two sides met two weeks ago, with Taupo winning by 44 runs.
“I think every time Taupo have struggled it has been when they haven’t got full control of the game," said Thickpenny.
“When teams have managed to put them under pressure they have struggled and shown frustration so that is the key.
“There is a huge belief in the team this week that we can get it done.
“Both of our last encounters with Taupo have been close and we really feel like if we can match our performance on Saturday we can definitely take the title this weekend.”