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If only objects could tell tales, what stories we would likely hear. Last week Sideline Sid had a piece of local sporting silverware that dates back nearly a century, in his hands for a short time.

The Baker Cup, which was the symbol of local top-level club cricket in Tauranga, has been revitalised as the Western Bay of Plenty Cricket challenge prize.

The first thing that gets your attention is the weight of the sterling silver trophy. Genuine sterling silver must be at least 92.5 pure silver, which makes the Baker Cup heavy to hold in relation to today's silver plated trophies.

The first engraving on the Baker Cup tells us that City won the cricket trophy in the 1921/22 season.

It would appear that the Cup started life as a club prize, as the names of the Mount and Albion also feature in the early years of competition.

During WW2, the early Tauranga aerodrome became a RNZAF training base. The 1942/43 cricket season reflects the airman’s presence, with Airforce engraved on the symbol of Tauranga cricket superiority.

Immediately after WW2, the Baker Cup appears to have become a local representative prize with Tauranga, Te Puke and Country engraved on the Cup.

Later the cricket trophy was awarded to the winner of the Tauranga Cricket Championship two-day title.

It's only in recent years that one-day cricket has taken the place of two-day competitions.

Dyed-in-the-wool cricket traditionalists believe that the demise of the two-day game has turned cricket into smash and bash, where discipline at the crease and the ability to craft long innings has become a lost art.

The introduction of season long Baywide premier cricket saw the Baker Cup pensioned off.

A few years ago Western Bay Cricket re-introduced the old-time cricket trophy as a Western Bay premier challenge trophy, when the current holder meets a another local team in Baywide competition.

While the Baker Cup dates back nearly a century, the start of the local game stretches back a further 50 plus years.

In 1864, the 43rd Monmouth and 68th Durham Light Infantry regiments were stationed in Tauranga, to stop supplies reaching the Kingitanga movement in the Waikato. Cricket began in Tauranga with the introduction of the game by the 12th Regiment, who were responsible for the establishment of the Military and Civil Cricket Club around 1866.

Early honorary secretaries were Captain Marcom and Lieutenant Campbell, who supervised the pitch at the Government Paddock and arranged games with the crews of visiting naval ships.

The transition from a military to a civilian settlement signalled the demise of the military dominated cricket club. In October 1872 the Tauranga Cricket Club was formed by Major Roberts, Captain Skeet and Messrs Griffiths, Sisley, Ogilivie, Samuels, Dacre and Goldsmith. 

For the rest of the nineteenth century the club revived each summer for Saturday games. When a match was arranged with an out of town team, such as Tauranga v Katikati, the banks closed early so that the inhabitants of Tauranga would be free to attend.

When outside teams weren’t available, members of the club divided themselves into sides such as All-comers, Married, Single, Diehards, Standbacks or simply Mr Gray’s side.

During 1888, a well maintained pitch was established at the Tauranga Domain, where cricket is still played to this day.

For the record, Cadets wrested the Baker Cup from Greerton who had withstood all challenges for the preceding twelve months, two weeks ago.

With the Cadets verses Mount Maunganui game rained out last weekend, the Tauranga Domain based side will hold the Baker Cup until the start of the 2019/20 season.

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian
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