NORTHERN DISTRICTS v OTAGO VOLTS
10-13 October 2018
Result: Northern Districts won by eight wickets
Total points this round:
Northern Districts 16
Otago Volts: 4
After showers had delayed the start of what would surely prove the last day at Bay Oval, Kane Williamson quickly made up for lost time in the quest for a comfortable victory to open ND's season.
Enjoying a rare foray for ND at his home ground at the Mount, Williamson was soon into his work, finding the fence whenever it suited him. He peeled three consecutive boundaries off a frustrated Matt Bacon to post his half century off 74 balls (nine boundaries included) before Henry Cooper registered their 100-partnership for the second wicket in similar fashion, the required runs for ND now dipping down into double figures.
Just as ND looked to be in cruise control during the first session, Williamson lost his wicket, however. Caught on 83 with 61 still to get, it was a feather in the cap for spinner Michael Rippon as the master batsman attempted to charge him, only to spade up a catch for Jacob Duffy.
Dean Brownlie stepped in next to raise the ND 150 and see Cooper to his half century, now just a further 50 runs needed for a first-up win — while the other four teams around the country played cards in their dressing rooms as wet spring weather toyed with their match plans.
Requiring just 47 after lunch, the pair remained unbeaten, Cooper (above) reaching 66* and Brownlie 30* as Northern Districts duly completed the first outright win of the season, winning by eight wickets with a day and a half to spare for 16 of the maximum possible 20 points from the round.
The victory represented an immediate success for new ND coach John Bracewell while for the Volts there were glimpses of a better season in store than their challenging 2017/18.
Round One would continue in the remaining games in Wellington and Nelson, after which the early leader on the Plunket Shield points table was confirmed as defending champs the Central Stags, by a hair's breadth.
Hamish Rutherford's ninth first-class century for the Otago Volts, and 12th of his long form career, was the batting highlight for the southern visitors as they tried to develop their overnight lead against their star-studded hosts at the Mount.
Against the quality attack and putting his first-innings duck behind him, Rutherford showed his pedigree, and opener's mettle, weathering a stormy barrage of missiles as he patiently developed his innings.
Unfortunately for Volts fans, Rutherford's fortitude at the top found little support, Shawn Hicks's 47 off 55 and a late order knock by Christi Viljoen (33 off 62) the only other scores, besides the extras, to reach double figures.
After almost five and half hours at the crease dogged Rutherford was the last to fall, ending the Volts' second innings tally on 231 and setting ND a target of 204 to win with more than half the allocated match days in which to get them.
Again the wickets had been shared, fiery Neil Wagner claiming the lion's share of top order wickets against his former teammates with his four for 75.
The fourth and final innings began shortly before tea on only the second day, ND reaching 52 for one by stumps with a further 152 required tomorrow. Kane Williamson will resume on 28* with Henry Cooper 14*.
All the prematch talk had been about the Northern Districts line-up: how impossibly strong it would be as an influx of BLACKCAPS took it to near-capacity firepower, only three players in the XI having not represented New Zealand in International cricket.
Ultimately Tim Southee had been kept out by a knee niggle but, aside from Southee, it was BLACKCAPS for Africa in the ND side with Kane Williamson, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult, BJ Watling and new acquisitions Colin de Grandhomme and Neil Wagner (below, playing first-up against his former team) all set to play together on the same domestic side for the first time.
The Otago Volts, led by newly minted captain Mark Craig, were surely on a hiding to nothing. Sure enough, at 75 for nine after having been sent in, they were in grave danger of recording their lowest ever first-class total against the ND. The record stood precariously at 77 (Harry Barker Reserve, 1999/2000).
Captain Craig and tailender Jacob Duffy (above) saved the blushes, putting on 33 for the last wicket before Duffy’s dismissal saw the innings fold at 108, inside 35 overs. Sodhi hadn’t even been required.
After struggling to get off the canvas last summer, it wasn’t the ideal beginning for the refreshed and recharged Volts. And yet, by day’s end, a grand tally of 21 wickets would have fallen at Bay Oval, and the Southerners would be in the lead!
The Volts had quickly turned the tables on ND, galaxy of stars and all, dismissing them for 136. Four of their BLACKCAPS had been routed for no score, while Kane Williamson managed a single. Young Nathan Smith (3-34) had ripped out the middle order before Matt Bacon sliced through the next chunk of the order with a quick 4-31. Everyone was rubbing their eyes.
The fun wasn’t about to stop. Enter hometown hero Trent Boult, the bowler with the golden grabs and now, a magic touch with the bat as he set about walloping an audacious 61 off 37 balls (six fours, five sixes) at number 10. He even smashed Craig for 28 off a single over.
The glorious affront delighted the spectators and swept Boult to his career best first-class score (previous best: 52*), and included three consecutive sixes to bring up his half century as he charged down the wicket with intent.
Craig finally got him caught — courtesy of a relay catch right on the boundary — to stop the damage at a first innings lead of 28, yet it must have aggrieved to the Volts to realise how close they had come to bowling out mighty ND for just 80-odd.
The Volts lost a sole second innings wicket before stumps, and will resume at 88 for one with a lead of 60 (Shawn Hicks 47*, Hamish Rutherford 37*).