The Northern Hurricanes overcame a defiant fight-back from the Southern Seafarers to seal victory in the final session of the last day of the inaugural 3-Day Challenge. Michael Rippon was the star on the final day taking 7-68 to break the Southerners' resistance, Seafarers captain Pieter Seelaar left unbeaten after a defiant 61* as the Hurricanes sealed a 65 run victory.
A daunting first-innings total of 340 had ensured the Hurricanes were always in a dominant position, but the Seafarers fought their way back into the match repeatedly with bat and ball, ensuring that all four results were on the cards as the shadows lengthened on day three.
On the opening day a 162-run stand for the 4th wicket bewteen Hurricanes skipper Peter Borren and Saqib Zulfiqar put the hosts in the driving seat after a wobbly start. The Hurricanes had elected to bat first on a scorching morning, but lost Ben Cooper and Asad Zulfiqar cheaply as Vivian Kingma struck twice in his opening spell. When Rippon was caught for 45 off Rens van Troost with the score on 65 it seemed to be shaping up to be the Seafarer's day. But Zulfiqar and Borren batted through the afternoon session and had begun to look like they might see out the day when Borren flicked a Mahesh Hans delivery into the hands of Ahsan Malik at short midwicket.
The wicket triggered the first of several fightbacks from the Seafarers, Zulfiqar was caught behind off Malik shortly after - five runs short of a well-deserved century - and Kingma returned to pick up another brace. Mudassar Bukhari provided some lower order fireworks however, and was unbeaten overnight having taken the hosts to 325-8. He sought to continue where he left off the following morning, but could only add another 15 with Joost Kroesen and Leon Turmaine before he was stumped off Seelaar, last man out having made 68 off 70 balls.
Hidde Overdijk then produced an opening spell that all but finished the game then and there as he took the top off the Seafarers batting, claiming four successive wickets punctuated by a run-out before Rippon struck twice in two balls as the Southerners collapsed to 58-7 by Lunch. The visitors refused to roll over, and Seelaar and Shane Snater dug in after the break, adding 105 for the 8th wicket. The stand kept the game alive, but a lapse in concentration saw Seelaar chip a full toss back to the grateful Rippon just before Tea, and the innings was wrapped up soon after with the Seafarers all out for 167, still 178 runs behind.
The Hurricanes declined to enforce the follow on, but soon regretted it when a blistering opening spell from Kingma saw them rapidly reduced to 3-15. Sikander Zulfiqar put together partnerships with Borren and Rahil Ahmed to take the Hurricanes to 84-5 by stumps, but the following morning saw wickets fall regularly, Mahesh Hans and Ahsan Malik reducing the Northerners to their last pair before the declaration came at 134-9.
Set a target of 308 at a required rate of exactly 4-an-over, Tim Etman and Stephan Myburgh saw the Seafarers through to Lunch, and as the pair took the visitors to 81 without loss at a decent tick after the break a comeback victory looked increasingly possible. Two and a half days of blazing sun had begun to tell on the wicket however, and with conditions in his favour Rippon would prove too much for the Southerners to handle.
Etman was the first to go, caught behind for 28, and with Nelson on the board Rippon would calm the the home crowds' fears by dismissing Tim Gruijters and Roel Verhagen in the same fashion in consecutive deliveries. Turmaine had Myburgh trapped LBW for 63 shortly after, and when a needless run-out saw Wesley Barresi back in the pavilion with the Seafarers still 183 behind thoughts turned from victory to survival.
A dogged 45-run stand between Seelaar and Dirk van Baren steadied the innings, but Rippon would again find the breakthrough, trapping van Baren LBW before Joost Kroesen struck in his first over to remove Malik for a duck as the Seafarers slumped to 171-7. Snater again joined Seelaar with the Seafarers under the kosh, and the pair put on a rearguard 39 to get within sight of Tea. Rippon was not to be denied however, prizing out Snater just before the break.
With just two wickets left going into the final session the Hurricanes victory had taken on an air of inevitability, but Seelaar and Kingma would hold them off a while longer, Kingma seeing off 27 deliveries for 3 runs as the pair put on another 32 runs to take the total to 242-, notionally still up with the required rate. It would not be enough however, and when Rippon finally got one to straighted into Kingma's pads it was over in a trice. Mahesh Hans survived just three deliveries before Rippon sealed the win, finishing with match figures of 11-88.