Grassroots cricket in the Western Bay

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

While Sideline Sid's duties as a local cricket correspondent take him to a myriad of cricket games each season, his attendance at Western Bay B Grade matches are few and far between.

Last Saturday, Sid made sure of watching at least one B Grade encounter this season, when he caught up with an absolute thriller at Mitchell Park.

There are few more picturesque grounds in Tauranga City, with panoramic views from the bank and the multitude of shade trees scattered around the perimeter.

Grassroots cricket is well catered for in the region, courtesy of the Western Bay of Plenty Cricket Association, who runs pathways and competitions, from youngsters first picking up a bat through to former serious players who just want to turn up and play with their mates on a Saturday afternoon.

The Western Bay Cricket in Schools program takes the introductory basic of the game into the vast majority of local primary schools.

Forty minute fun sessions give the Year 1-4 pupils a taste of the game, with many enrolling in the NZ Cricket Superstar program, where basic cricket skills are taught to the youngsters.

Western Bay Saturday morning junior cricket competition numbers are amongst the highest in the country, with many of youngsters going on to play secondary school and senior men's grade cricket.

A Western Bay junior representative annual agenda caters for the youngsters who have more serious ambitions in the game.

There are no better examples of the success of the Western Bay junior rep program than Black Cap skipper Kane Williamson and New Zealand strike bowler Trent Boult, who both are graduates of the Western Bay junior pathway.

A huge logistical exercise took place recently, when 16 Western Bay rep sides, ranging from Year 4-5 through to Year 9-10, travelled to compete in the Riverbend junior cricket tournament in Hawke's Bay.

The Western Bay participation in the Riverbend competitions is the start of a cricket pathway that can lead to Bay of Plenty age-group and senior representative teams, through to professional cricket.

Western Bay of Plenty senior cricket competition sees two levels of grade cricket, with Reserve and B Grade competitions.

Reserve Grade provides cricket for the more serious minded players, whether harbouring ambitions for the future or dropping down a grade from the rigors of premier club cricket.

The local B Grade game is played at a more leisurely pace, with ages ranging from teenagers to players in their 40s, 50s and 60s, who enjoy the comradeship of playing with their mates and the social conviviality.

Last weekend's B Grade contest at Mitchell Park between Albion and Grasshoppers, who are both long-standing Western Bay cricket clubs, turned into a humdinger.

Albion batted first and were bowled out with 210 runs on the board, with one ball remaining, in their allotted forty overs.

Grasshoppers took aim at the solid target that their opponents posted and were right in the contest throughout.

Entering the last over of the encounter, the Hoppers needed nine runs for victory, only to fall just one run short of victory.

The different emotions felt by the two sides would have quickly dissipated with a drink and a chat about the great game, after the battle.


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