Emma McLeod . . . star performer with the bat at last week’s National Primary School Shield. PHOTO/JAKE BELESKI
Some stunning team performances helped the St Mary’s School girls’ cricket team to third place at the National Primary School Shield at Lincoln last week.
The competition rules allowed St Mary’s to combine with a smaller school, and they had two Hadlow School players in their 12-strong squad.
It proved an important move too, as Hadlow player Emma McLeod was the team’s most valuable player for the tournament, scoring 154 runs across their five matches with a highest score of 51.
St Mary’s qualified for the tournament courtesy of winning the Central Districts regional tournament in March.
The team got off to a disappointing start against eventual champions Heaton Intermediate from Christchurch, who romped to a 107-run win.
Their second match was a nail-biter against Balmacewen Intermediate from Otago, with St Mary’s winning by five runs after a tense final over.
On day two, they suffered a 72-run loss to Auckland’s Holy Cross School, but followed that up with a 50-run win over Raroa Normal Intermediate School from Wellington.
Their final match was a 31-run win over Morrinsville Intermediate from Northern Districts.
Coach Brent Ballantyne said they were very happy with how the tournament had played out.
“We didn’t really know what to expect when we went down there, but I think we came out of it with more than respectability.
“We played the tournament winning team first, which was a tough gig first up — they’ve won it five of the last six years.”
Ballantyne paid tribute to the contributions from all members of his playing squad, and said McLeod was a tournament standout.
“She would have been pushing for tournament MVP, but there was one girl from Christchurch (Estella Wallace) who was amazing.
“Emma is only a Year 7, so she’s got another year . . . she was incredible and got a score every game.”
Different members of the team had chipped in with the bat at different times, but Ballantyne said there was one player who stood out from the pack with ball in hand.
“Macy Lyford was the outstanding bowler — she took a lot of wickets and was largely responsible for our win against Balmacewen.
“She was deadly in that spell.”
Ballantyne said they had fielded well as a group, and that was reflected in how they were viewed by other teams and spectators.
“Half the team probably aren’t really serious cricketers, and they did a really good job.
“People commented that we backed each other up really well, and had a great team atmosphere, so that was really good.”
The team will lose some key players next year as the Year 8s move on to secondary school, many of whom are part of the Wairarapa Under-13 team.
Ballantyne said they had other players coming through, but didn’t want to look too far ahead.
“It will be hard to emulate, and we’ve had a pretty freakish bunch of kids coming through right now — I think where we finished was a fair reflection.
“It was just a fantastic tournament — the Lincoln grounds were unbelievable, and I’d say they are the pearl of New Zealand Cricket.”