Weekend Sun   

Flying under the radar in term one of the school year is an unheralded component of the New Zealand Cricket age-group pathway.

The NZ Cricket Schools competitions, which are played throughout the country in February and March each year, have produced a multitude of Black Caps and White Ferns and professional players since introduction of the Gillette Cup in 1990. 

Since Palmerston North High School was engraved on the Gillette Cup (today called the Secondary School First XI Cup) twenty-eight years ago, the NZ Cricket Schools program encompasses five national schools competitions today. 

Year Seven and Eight students compete in the National Primary School Cup (boys) and Shield (girls) competitions.

There is also a Junior Secondary and Secondary Schoolgirls competition, which are all played as provincial and major cricket association feeders, to the five National Finals tournaments played in Term Four every year. 

Evidence of the success of the schools cricket competition pathway, is provided in the 2003 National Primary School Cup Finals write-up.

The story tells us that another century to Otumoetai Intermediate batsman Kane Williamson wasn't enough to stave of defeat from Cobham Intermediate in the title decider, with Corey Anderson belting a undefeated 98 runs to take his side to victory. 

This year’s Bay of Plenty and Northern Districts Schools finals showed that there is another crop of Western Bay of Plenty stars of the future sitting in the wings.  

Tauranga Boys' College and Aquinas College took part in a high scoring encounter in the ND First XI Cup, third place playoff.

Aquinas College batted first with Fergus Lellman smacking 116, before dismissal, as his team posted 209 all out. 

Enter Taylor Bettleheim, who led Tauranga Boys' to an emphatic eight wicket win, with an unbeaten 105, being his second century of the ND finals tournament.

Taylor finished the Hamilton tournament as the leading run scorer with 215 runs at an average of 71.67. 

The Bay of Plenty Primary School title decider showcased two further young emerging stars.

Tauranga Intermediate set their Otmoetai counterparts an extremely large target, when they posted 200 runs without losing a wicket.

Utsav Kumar (95no) and Luke Spargo (90) were both in superb touch with their willow batting weapons, taking their team to the Bay of Plenty Championship victory. 

The rising young stars of Bay of Plenty Cricket need to look no further than the Bay of Plenty Cricket pathway for inspiration. 

Last Wednesday night, Trent Boult was awarded the supreme individual prize at the New Zealand Cricket prize-giving when he was presented with the Sir Richard Hadlee Medal. 

The 2017/18 NZ Cricket Player of the Year, has just finished another superlative season with the ball, taking 77 international wickets through all three formats of the game.

Trent was also adjudged as the New Zealand Test Player of the Year and was named in the ICC Men’s ODI Team of 2017. 

During the 2018 England tour, Trent became just the sixth New Zealand bowler to take 200 Test wickets and became the sixth fastest from any country to bring up 100 ODI wickets.

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian
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