Wounded defending champions the Central Stags headed to Fitzherbert Park knowing they had been unbeaten there for three seasons. All that was about to go west.
How it happened
• The Otago Volts entered the round five encounter with their third captain of the season, Brad Wilson replacing BLACKCAP Jimmy Neesham who had replaced injured Hamish Rutherford. Wilson won the toss and batted against a Stags attack missing a bevy of injured frontliners.
• Navin Patel and Liam Dudding opened the Stags’ attack with a handful of matches between them, both having made their List A debuts in recent weeks. It didn’t stop Dudding breaking through in the third over to claim fellow rookie Gregor Croudis as his maiden wicket, and he would go on to a haul of three.
• Netherlands international Michael Rippon, in his second game for the Volts, slowly lifted the tempo, but lost Ryan Duffy to Ajaz Patel’s third delivery of the morning when the spinner came on in the eighth. That brought Wilson to the crease, but before long he would be caught Patel bowled Patel — two for the spinning variety.
• Michael Bracewell had replaced him in the middle in the 14th over, Rippon now having got a solid start. By drinks he was unbeaten on 39, but would become Kieran Noema-Barnett’s first victim a few overs later, Bracewell on 17* at the time.
• Josh Finnie would provide Bracewell with the foil he needed to free his arms, reaching his own fifty and a run-a-ball 50-stand for the fifth wicket shortly after the 30-over mark. Finnie was racing along himself, but they treated George Worker’s delayed entry into the attack with respect, before Bracewell put him over the rope for his first six in the 36th over, taking himself to 66* and the Volts to 184 for four by second drinks.
• They were just about to tott up a 100-stand when Finnie fell, caught off one of the four Manawatu locals in the side, Navin Patel. Bracewell went over the rope again in an expensive 40th over, before Dudding replaced Noema-Barnett in the attack sitting on 1-25 from his debut spell.
• Anaru Kitchen and Bracewell were looking to cash in now, Bracewell belting himself into the 90s with another six. He already had one List A century for New Zealand A, but had never quite done it in 54 matches for the Volts. Blair Tickner had been taking the brunt of his late outburst, but got the last word when Bracewell was caught on 92, scarcely believing it had happened again.
• Four balls later Tickner had explosive Kitchen caught, too: 242/7. Now it was Dudding’s turn and he added Viljoen’s wicket to his column in the 47th. Nathan Smith and Derek de Boorder then made the mistake of not respecting Tickner’s arm, resulting in Smith’s runout in the 48th. The Volts would be all out in 287 as Dudding wrapped up 3-67 with a catch off the final ball of the innings, but the flurry had come too late for the Stags’ liking, 30 runs punched off the last two overs. They would prove very important runs.
• The Stags took their turn at bat needing almost a run a ball, which was unlikely to have daunted the strong batting side. Until they started losing too many key wickets to expose a weakened tail.
• George Worker was coming off a century, back on the ground where it all began, but was caught in the second over. Captain Will Young was coming off a season run of low scores, and joined Jesse Ryder determined to turn it around. Ryder slapped a six off Smith next over to lighten the mood, and after a couple of no balls, Young imitated him off the next legitimate delivery to get off the mark in style over square. They had just taken 21 off an over.
• Jack Hunter kept things relatively tight, however, and forced Ryder’s wicket, Tom Bruce joining his captain as they looked to steady. Bruce swivelled into a murderous hook shot to raise the Stags’ 50 at the end of the 12th over, and they went on to reach their 50-stand a few overs later.
• Young was dominating, and on the cusp of his first half-ton of the Ford Trophy season. He was up against Rippon’s Chinamans, but they were ticking it over nicely until Rippon struck back with Bruce’s wicket — a scarcely believable low, stinging catch to Bracewell on the leg side as Bruce looked to sweep it away for another four: drinks, 82/3.
• Dane Cleaver shepherded Young to his fifty, off 57 balls, before falling caught to Christi Viljoen. Rippon had meanwhile been hard to get away, 1-14 off his five overs thus far. The Stags’ 100 came up off his next over, off 128 balls — the batsmen had targeted the others to neutralise the threat.
• When Ryan Duffy came into the attack, they pounced — Josh Clarkson booming a six as they plundered some useful runs. It only forced Viljoen back into the attack, however, and it had tragic consequences for the Stags with Young caught behind on 63.
• Clarkson has been the Stags’ finisher, but with more than 150 runs still to be found, he needed to rebuild with Noema-Barnett first. At the 30-over mark, they had reached 145/5 — 143 more needed at seven runs per over, and their stand had just reached that pace at 42 off 38 when Clarkson (44 off 49) was caught off Finnie in the 33rd.
• Now the Volts brought Rippon back, sensing the Stags’ exposure as the dogged Navin Patel joined Noema-Barnett. They had lost too many influential bats. Twenty-two-year-old Patel responded with his first List A boundary — but lost the experience of Noema-Barnett at the end of the 39th.
• Ajaz Patel helped get them to 200 off 242 balls, 88 runs needed now off the last 10 — not an equation that would normally threaten the Stags rearguard, but today was not a normal day, the power blades all gone and Hamilton hero Seth Rance the latest absentee from the 12.
• They saw off Rippon, then Nav Patel hit his first List A six, to the great applause of all his teammates. As the Volts continued to spin it at him, he had a new career best, after his dogged 10-over resistance on debut in Napier a few games earlier. But there were more dots than scoring strokes, now, and the Stags were on thin ice.
• Well aware of the ask, the Patels began taking on more singles and, by the end of the 47th, had a partnership of 42 off 49 balls. Fifty was needed off the last three overs.
• They would gather one more single before Hunter ended Nav Patel’s determined stay on 37. Ajaz Patel and Blair Tickner didn’t give in, Tickner raising the 250 with a boundary off Smith, then poked him for another next ball. But it was third time unlucky as Smith had him caught off the following delivery, leaving an equation of 33 needed off the last over with one wicket in hand, something Jack Hunter was quite capable of restraining, even with Ajaz Patel slamming him for a six second ball.
• When Dudding was caught to give Hunter figures of 4-51, the Stags had gone down yet again in a last-over finish, and while others were close run, they still have just one win to show from five rounds. Worse, the Volts had just got their first to edge ahead of them at the foot of the points table. Things were not going to plan for the double Ford Trophy champions.
The Volts head to Invercargill to host the Aces at Queen’s Park this Wednesday while the Stags look to pick themselves up against the Firebirds at the Basin Reserve.