SOUTHLAND cricket followers got to witness something special at Queens Park in Invercargill on Saturday.
Defending champions Appleby took on Waikoikoi in the 2017-18 ILT Premier League decider.
Waikoikoi won by nine wickets in what is the 125th jubilee year of the small rural club.
It was the club’s first top level one-day competition title – and that in itself made for a memorable day.
But it was the heroics of opening batsman Rhuebyn Prattley which will probably have Southland cricket folk talking about this particular final in years to come.
Appleby set Waikoikoi 210 to win. It was a below-par score, but Appleby remained confident of their chances at the change of innings.
That was until Prattley was set loose.
He struck 20 fours and 11 sixes in a remarkable innings of 171 runs from just 73 balls.
It meant Waikoikoi needed just 21.4 overs to chase down the required runs to be crowned 2017-18 champions.
The innings capped off a golden season for Prattley, as he brought up 1020 runs in the ILT Premier League competition at a strike rate of 170 runs per 100 balls.
Prattley has been regarded as one of Southland’s more talented batsmen for many years, but until this season he had struggled to convert starts into big scores.
“Quite a few of the boys said 30s and 40s don’t win games. That sort of got into my head,” Prattley said about his stellar season.
“They are right, 30s and 40s don’t win games, it is 50s, 70s, 100s that win games. So I took that into account.
“But when you’re batting you don’t think about much, well you try not to anyway. I don’t know, something just clicked and it has worked for me.”
As far as his sporting exploits go, Prattley’s focus will now turn to hockey in the winter months. He is also a Southland representative hockey player.
That hockey background is evident in the way he bats in cricket, and he said the two sports worked well together when developing skills.
Saturday’s club final also was an end of an era for long-serving Southland umpire Rob Stewart, who is retiring.
The final brought the curtain down on the Southland cricket summer, a golden one considering Southland were able to bring the Hawke Cup back to the province for the first time since 1992.