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Bay of Plenty with chance of unbeaten Hawke Cup season

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The final Hawke Cup challenge of the 2017 season begins 10.30am tomorrow at Mount Maunganui’s Bay Oval where Zone 4 winner Southland will attempt to prise the silverware from Bay of Plenty’s firm grasp.

While last season saw the Hawke Cup change hands with every match, this season Bay of Plenty is unbeaten — having held onto the Hawke Cup since 13 March 2016 when they overcame Hawke’s Bay in Napier in the final challenge of last summer.

To recap the story of 2017, defenders Bay of Plenty began by swatting aside Zone 1 challengers Counties Manukau after piling on a record-equalling 701 runs, then survived an action-packed adventure against Zone 2 challenger Hawke’s Bay on a bowler-friendly deck a fortnight later.

Two weeks ago they dominated Zone 3 challengers Nelson for a win on the first innings, and now prepare to take on a Southland side that contains youngsters who weren’t even born the last time Southland held the coveted silverware.

That was in 1992, while Southland’s most recent shot at reclaiming the Hawke Cup came at the close of the 2013/14 season when they went on an unsuccessful mission to Manawatu.

The most recent Hawke Cup season in which a province went through unbeaten was 2011/12, when then-holders Hamilton defeated Counties Manukau, Wairarapa, Nelson and Southland on the bounce before Bay of Plenty stopped their run in the first challenge of the 2012/13 season.

The precious symbol of New Zealand’s provincial cricket supremacy, the Hawke Cup has been fiercely contested since 1910/11, when Southland was the first holder.

Now Southland leg-spinner Jack Mockford and left-arm off-spinner Ben Lockrose are both set to join the historic roll call of Hawke Cup cricketers tomorrow at just 16.

While their Yorkshire import Alex Lees has returned to England to prepare for the County season, the strong Bay of Plenty side is coming off an outright win against Counties Manukau on the weekend that saw them retain Northern Districts Cricket Association’s regional Fergus Hickey Rosebowl.

SQUADS

BAY OF PLENTY: Peter Drysdale (c), Tom MacRury, Ben Musgrave, Brenton Thompson, Brett Hampton, Sean Davey, Jono Boult, Tim Clarke (w), Stephan Crossan, Donovan Deeble, Tony Goodin, Chris Atkinson

SOUTHLAND: Shaun Fitzgibbon (c), Rhuebyn Prattley, Jarred McKenzie, James Ng, Dan Smith, Jason Domigan, Joe Clayton (w), Jason Osborne, Kurt Thompson, Jack Mockford, Ben Lockrose, Bailey Andrews-Kennedy