After an overnight score in the 90s, Luke Woodcock also had to endure the loss of his opening colleague as the shock of a wicket falling echoed around the Basin Reserve early on the final day.
Until that moment, Woodcock and Michael Papps had racked up 235 runs together for no loss, but the Volts’ most troublesome bowler of the first innings — left-armer Bradley Scott — was finally back in action.
That the Firebirds then elevated Luke Ronchi ahead of Stephen Murdoch made their intentions clear: slather on a few more quick runs and declare. Woodcock duly rose his bat for his sixth first-class century — all of them for the Firebirds — before unleashing to help post a lead of more than 300, all still just the one wicket down.
In the event, Ronchi’s stint was a short one this time. Scott struck again, getting the first-innings century-maker caught on 17. While the horse had bolted, the Volts were able to capitalise on the Firebirds’ quest for adventure, Jacob Duffy picking up his first wicket soon after, Woodcock’s marathon stint ended on 131 at 299/3.
Scott (3-47) carried on with his merriment, taking his seventh wicket for the match in the form of Craig Cachopa, whom he had now dismissed for just one run in both innings. That was almost enough for the ’Birds who declared soon after with their 355-run shadow cast over the Volts.
Volts captain Hamish Rutherford got the chase started with two boundaries off Brent Arnel’s opening over and then helped himself off Dane Hutchinson, too. But Arnel would soon shut the skipper down to have the Volts 14/1 by lunch, 314 runs left to find over the last two sessions.
The loss of Michael Bracewell after the break put the onus on solid accumulator Brad Wilson, on 20 at the time, and Neil Broom, who’d looked in good touch, to repeat their first innings efforts, and then some.
It didn’t quite pan out for Wilson, who became the first of two quick wickets for spinner Jeetan Patel, who collected him caught and bowled on 57 before taking out Anaru Kitchen cheaply in his following over.
Broom, however, stood firm. By tea he’d got his side to 181/4, and himself to 60, supported by Derek de Boorder. Their 100-run partnership for the fifth wicket came up after the break, off just 139 balls, and they even got a bonus when the ball clanged into the fielding helmet behind the keeper.
Smacking 85 off 111 balls, Broom had looked the man for the challenge. But with the deficit carved down to 128, there was a setback for the Volts, Arnel delighting in having him caught behind.
Still, it was game on. Sam Wells joined de Boorder and looked to keep the tempo flowing.
But Patel wasn't finished, and quickly took care of both Wells and Scott (thanks to a committed run and diving catch from Arnel) to have the Volts facing the music, seven down with de Boorder hanging on with a half century in sight. Three wickets left, 116 runs to get.
De Boorder barely had time to celebrate reaching his fifty, losing another partner just four balls later. Patel now had 5-71 for his 22 overs, his 20th five-wicket bag in first-class cricket and seventh for the Firebirds.
He would make it a six-for with the final wicket, de Boorder's valiance having already been ended in the previous over as the Firebirds finally closed in for a deserved 92-run win, their second outright of the season.
DAY THREE stumps score: Wellington Firebirds 223/0 in second innings
The Firebirds had early breakthroughs on the menu as day three dawned and both teams looked to make up for lost time in a stop-start game.
They got what they wanted as Matt McEwan trapped Brad Wilson for only a further 10 runs added to his overnight score. Then Neil Broom found himself outdone by Jeetan Patel, who bowled him just shy of a 50.
Derek de Boorder stuck around with Anaru Kitchen to move the score through from 167/4 to 225/5, but Patel was intent on adding to his bag and, wickets haven fallen at regular intervals thereafter, the Volts declared at eight down: Rutherford deciding that they would rather hand a 49-run first innings lead to their hosts than let them have a final bowling point for nine wickets.
Teatime renovations. Papps & Woodcock building healthy lead - 103 with 10 wkts. Day 4 shaping up as very interesting pic.twitter.com/nnAsL1K2We— Wellington Firebirds (@wgtnfirebirds) December 19, 2015
The Firebirds' opening batsmen offered little generosity in reply and settled in for a weighty opening stand.
They were already trucking well at 127 without loss by drinks in the final session of the day (Luke Woodcock 69*, Michael Papps on 51* after having taken the first six off the second innings off Sam Wells).
Papps helped himself to a second six shortly after the break, this time off Rhys Phillips, en route to 150 without loss and a 200-run lead. The Volts were going to hurt this afternoon, as long as he had anything to do with it.
The only time the pair slowed down a little was when Papps took a single to reach 99. Jacob Duffy bowled a maiden as Papps decided not to rush it. But after 3.3 overs on 99, he finally took his century with a boundary off Anaru Kitchen, and the pair ticked off an unbroken 200-run stand shortly afterwards, off 291 balls.
It was Papps's 28th first-class century and by stumps Woodcock was nine runs away from joining him, the Firebirds 223 without loss for a lead of 272 heading into the last day.
DAY TWO stumps score: SBS Bank Otago Volts 100/2
Tea was taken at the Basin after a long day of cuppas and toasties, no play having been possible as iffy weather hung around like a lurgy.
But at half past three, the weather gods smiled a bit and, after an ocean of waiting around in the 80s, Luke Ronchi was finally able to stride out and crack on with the business of posting his 15th first-class century and his seventh for the Firebirds — bringing it up in style with a flowing cover drive.
His hundred had been smacked off just 119 balls and, when he lost partner Matt McEwan soon after (Jacob Duffy claiming his first, the off pole rocked back by a yorker in a wicket maiden), he'd already galloped on to 112, with a couple more fours for good measure. Now, at 324/9, there was little to gain from knuckling down: Ronchi added four more to his tally before Duffy slid one through Brent Arnel's defences, the Firebirds all out for 328 in just over 101 protracted overs.
The Volts lost an early wicket in response, Arnel delighting in having the potentially punitive Hamish Rutherford caught cheaply, after the opener spaded him straight to Anurag Verma.
First drop Michael Bracewell joined Brad Wilson, but he would be sent back on 22 after a peppery Dane Hutchinson got the better of him, dismissing him caught behind with the Volts 60/2 in the 21st over.
Now partnered by Neil Broom, who looked in efficient touch, Wilson trucked on through the late shift in his seemingly unfussed manner, racking up a half-century with a single off Jeetan Patel, seven boundaries included. Broom survived a big shout off the final Matt McEwan delivery of the day to head back in on 50*, the SBS Bank Otago Volts 100/2 after 35 overs.
DAY ONE stumps score: Wellington Firebirds 279/8
Contending with a southerly, let alone the Firebirds' potent top order, proved no sweat for veteran Bradley Scott as the visiting SBS Bank Otago Volts took an early upper hand on day one at the Basin Reserve.
With his awkward angles, the 36-year-old left-armer would take the day’s bowling honours after a weather-delayed start that had cost the first hour of play. He started off by fighting back against a bristling start from the hosts to trap both Michael Papps (who'd compiled an organised 32) and Craig Cachopa (1) — both of them tellingly caught out by shouldering arms, only to see the ball nip in at the last minute.
Scott had already been unlucky not to take out Luke Woodcock, too, who had precariously edged one between keeper and slip.
Meanwhile, Scott’s young pace ally Jack Hunter chimed in by removing the class act that is Stephen Murdoch, who was gutted to edge Hunter for no score.
The three power wickets had suddenly rocked the Firebirds onto the back foot: from 61/0 to 67/3 in the space of 19 balls.
Joined now by Mike Pollard, Luke Woodcock tried to fend off the fired-up southerners but, as the scoreboard pressure rose, he became Scott’s next victim thanks to a faint edge.
Pollard (above) fought back over two absorbing hours by striking seven boundaries and a six and fending off an annoying Sam Wells on his way to a half century. It put day one honours back in the balance, but Rhys Phillips's flight would stop him in his tracks no sooner than he’d raised his bat.
With wickets tumbling at all too regular intervals, someone had to stop the rot for the hosts. It turned out to be the hard-hitting Luke Ronchi and Tom Blundell, who blazed a Firebirds’ recovery with a 92-run partnership for the sixth wicket — punctuated by the odd break for sideways rain on a wild Wellington day.
Having come together at 145/5, the pair had gone to tea at 156/5, then finished cracking their first 50 runs together off just 82 balls. But who should have come back to end their fun? Scott, with his fourth wicket for the day — bowling Blundell on 31.
Sam Wells, playing his 50th first-class game for the Volts, moved in for two late wickets to leave the Firebirds 279/8 at stumps, Ronchi resting unbeaten overnight on 83 off 104 balls, including 12 boundaries.