Christchurch’s Heaton Intermediate won the New Zealand Cricket Girls Shield recognising them as the top Primary and Intermediate Cricket team in the country for the 3rd successive year and the 5th time in 6 years.  The Heaton Girls qualified for Nationals held at Lincoln in late November. They qualified by beating Waimea (Nelson), Cobham and Tai Tapu a month earlier.

The weather for the 3 day nationals was excellent and the grounds were in fabulous condition. All the top six sides were looking forward to some great days of cricket. Heaton was the Canterbury qualifier, Balmacewen represented Otago, Raroa Intermediate from Johnsonville carried Wellingtons hopes, St Mary’s School (Wairarapa) were representing Central Districts where some great initiatives for females playing cricket are happening. Morrinsville from The Northern Districts region did well to qualify for their first year at nationals. Holy Cross from Auckland were also first time qualifiers and were full of top athletes and had beaten previous Auckland finalists including Belmont and Viscount.

Game 1 : Heaton (Canterbury) 161/3  Beat  St Mary’s (Central Districts) 54/10 (16.4 overs)

Heaton elected to bat first and started the tournament off in ominous style with Estella Wallace batting through the innings and finishing on 57*, Lucy Campbell was on 49 being run out in the last over as Heaton pushed for extra runs.

Niamh McKenzie picked up 3 wickets for 3 runs, Emelia Hinton took 2/7 with her slow accurate bowling and Lucy Campbell backed up her 49 with 2 wickets for 10 runs.

Game 2 : Heaton (Canterbury) 172/1 Beat Morrinsville (ND) 77/9

Again Heaton choose to bat and the opening pair of Ashleigh Fleming and Estella Wallace strode to the crease. Last year these 2 girls batted at 9/10/11 but both have worked hard at their games and both had been instrumental in helping Heaton reach the finals. They got off to a flyer with Ashleigh eventually being dismissed for 23. Niamh McKenzie and Estella took us through the 20 overs with Estella finishing on 68* and Niamh finished on a quickfire 46*.

Both our opening batters also dominated with the ball – Estella finished the game with the figures of 5wickets for 12 runs and Ashleigh 2/7.

At the end of day 1 it looked like the two top teams were going to be Heaton and Holy Cross from Auckland who had similar winning margins to Heaton.

Day 2 had Heaton destined to play Balmac first up and then a very strong Holy Cross School in the afternoon.

Game 3: Balmacewen (Otago) 31/10 (14.2 overs) lost to Heaton 33/6 (8.4 overs)

Balmac won the toss and elected to bat. Heaton’s plan was to bowl first – get them out cheaply then give some of the lower order girls a bat – as they were likely to bat again against the bowlers from  Holy Cross. This was exactly what happened.

The bowling was shared around with Niamh McKenzie taking 4/7, Lucy Campbell 2/4, Estella Wallace 2/7 and Greer Richards and Phoebe Spear taking a wicket each.

Heaton was hoping to get the win without needing to use its top 4 batters, however the Balmac opening bowlers were particularly useful and we needed to insert Niamh Mckenzie (12*) to stabilise the ship and take us through to a winning total.

Game 4 : Heaton 85/10 (17.2 overs) beat Holy Cross (Auckland) 58/10 (13.4 overs).

Although the scores were low and neither team batted out their 20 overs – this was one of those games that the players and spectators will remember and talk about for years to come as it ebbed and flowed right to the end. It was played in great spirit and the Holy Cross girls will be remembered by all teams for their appealing and celebration of wickets. The Holy Cross girls were amazing athletes and their passion for the game was infectious.

Heaton won the toss and elected to bat and our openers Ashleigh and Estella got us off to a flyer pushing singles into the gaps and running hard to take us to 25 runs off 3 overs before Estella was dismissed for the only time in the tournament, being caught at gully for 17. Moments later Ashleigh was given LBW and Lucy was out next ball leaving us teetering at 28/3. Niamh McKenzie looked like she had steadied the ship before being bowled for 10 and the team 51/4 after 7.4 overs. We were in trouble. Our next 7 batters had batted against Balmac earlier in the day but had not scored many runs. We were about to watch a stubborn occupation of the crease for another 10 overs whilst adding another 30 runs to take Heaton to a defendable 85. Notably Phoebe Spear top scored with a gritty 19 runs, but credit needs to also be given to Maddie, Jessie, Pippa, Greer, Paris and Emelia for their galant team effort. Heaton was not overly confident at the break but certainly knew that they were in with a chance.

Estella opened the bowling and when an early breakthrough was needed, she provided just that with what was arguably the fastest deliveries of the tournament. Estella clean bowled one opener on the first ball and then 4 balls later got an umpire to raise his finger sending the other opener out LBW and leaving Holy Cross reeling at 1 run for 2 wickets. Holy Cross’s best batter was then given out again LBW for 16 by some tidy bowling by Lucy. Holy Cross were now 20/3 after 3.3 overs and in serious trouble, but they only needed one batter to hunker down. Greer Richards then strode up to bowl her medium left arm over the wicket deliveries and completely destroyed the middle order taking 4 wickets for 4 runs (at one stage she had the figures of 3 wickets for 0 runs). They started to panic and Heaton executed two brilliant run outs to close out the game executed by Pippa Blair and Phoebe Spear.

That was one of the best games Heaton has ever played in the history of the National Shield – truly a real team effort and worthy of the best team at the tournament.

That left just one game on the Saturday against Raroa of Wellington, A win would mean that Heaton would be champions for an unprecedented 3 times in a row.In the history of the shield only Heaton, Tawa and Havelock North had won the shield 2 years in a row previously.

Game 5 : Heaton 139/3 beat Raroa 67/10 (18.4 overs)

Once again Estella finished on 67* batting through the innings and was supported by Niamh with 14 and Lucy on 25. Raroa had 2 wins and 2 loses at this stage and we soon had them reeling as they struggled to keep any partnerships as they regularly lost wickets. Niamh was the pick of the bowlers with 3/12, supported by Lucy 2/10, and Greer, Ashleigh and Emelia all chipped in with a wicket.

In summary this one a fantastic team effort to retain the Shield. Some of the stats were:

The Heaton fielding was particularly impressive they

o   Took 13 catches during the tournament (vs 17 from all other teams combined)

o   2 stumpings (vs 2 from all the other teams combined)

o   9 Run outs ( vs 16 from all the other teams combined).

A final word should be saved for the Heaton captain, who lead the team with energy, passion and courage. Ashleigh Fleming was outstanding organising the team, setting the field, keeping motivation and belief high and unselfishly putting other players ahead of herself. Without her leadership the task of defending the Shield would have been a lot more difficult. She also opened the batting and kept wickets.