Allrounders clash in battle of the Basin

Video Highlights




Cello Basin Reserve, Wellington

6-9 November, 2023



First innings points:

Wellington Firebirds: 6

Northern Districts: 4

Total points this round:

Wellington Firebirds: 6

Northern Districts: 4


Nathan Smith - fifth first-class five-wicket bag

Nathan Smith - 100 first-class career wickets

Kristian Clarke - third first-class five-wicket bag

Brett Hampton career best batting

Tim Robinson - maiden first-class wicket

All images: PHOTOSPORT

All eyes were on the teams going toe-to-toe in this closely fought, third-round showdown in the capital, between the only two undefeated sides. Firebirds allrounder Nathan Smith and young Northern Districts star Kristian Clarke both continued to make a big individual impact for their respective teams, in a crunch match that hung in the balance all the way to the final afternoon. But the result was one that neither side wanted.


Would the Plunket Shield leaderboard be in for a shake-up? Would the weather play ball? And who would win the toss?

All the big questions on day one at the Basin, a southerly sweeping in across the capital and leading to an half-hour delay on the first morning. But pretty soon the covers were off, and a happy Northern Districts captain Jeet Raval put his hosts into bat.

Northern got off to a decent start in the match by dismissing their foe for 270 in 64.1 overs, but it wasn't without some counterattack from the Firebirds.

Gareth Severin (40, below) combined with captain Nick Kelly (51) in a 79-run stand for the third wicket. Kristian Clarke had already accounted for both openers, and he finally got his third when he stopped dangerous Kelly shortly after his half ton.

Tim Robinson replaced Kelly in the middle and went on to a half century of his own, reaching 60 off just 85 balls before Brett Hampton picked up his third wicket for the day. Nathan Smith added a niggly half ton, too.

The teams came off for bad light before tea, and again last session when rain eventually put the stamp on the day at 234/6, no further action having been possible.


After helping dismiss their hosts for 270 in 64.1 overs, Clarke had bagged 6/77 off 18 overs in the windy conditions, the Te Awamutu-born 22-year-old on a roll with his second bag of the season already.

Now last season's most prolific batter in the Plunket Shield, ND anchorman Bharat Popli, made his return from injury, further strengthening the early leaders in this pivotal round.

But ND was in early strife with the bat. By stumps, ND was 56/4 and trailing by 214 in the first innings, after a flurry of damaging late breakthroughs by the Firebirds. 

ND's top four was all back in the pavilion as the Firebirds pacemen attacked.

Smith had accounted for both Popli and Joe Carter for single-digit scores. Nightwatchman Joe Walker had joined Tim Seifert for the fifth wicket, while Smith was 2/19 overnight with Ben Sears and Michael Snedden the other wicket-takers.


Last season was one to forget for ultra-competitive Firebird Smith as he grappled with a painful back injury.

The feisty pace allrounder played just two early-season Plunket Shield matches before re-injuring himself, sitting out the back half of the red-ball season when his game-changing abilities with both the bat and ball were missed by his side.

Fast-forward to today and he's got 18 wickets from just two and a half matches, after having taken his fifth first-class bag in a match in which he'd already contributed a half century, as well as picked up his 100th first-class career wicket.

His efforts helped ensure the Firebirds would take an overall lead of 249* into the last morning, the Firebirds ending the day at 170/6 in their second innings.

Smith was out for a golden duck this time, rival allrounder Scott Kuggeleijn picking up his fourth wicket just before stumps as the two unbeaten teams continued to give no quarter to each other.


Game, on!

The Wellington Firebirds set Northern Districts a chase of 304 to win the battle of the Basin - and the visitors made a cracking start to it, setting the tone with a big century partnership.

Henry Cooper (73 off 124) and Raval (58 off 120) enjoyed their work as the pitch flattened, their opening stand reaching 132 before golden arm Tim Robinson got both of them in the space of a couple of overs - his first victims at this level.

From 139/2, Popli and Carter then had a solid platform to build on, with a gettable chase of some four runs per over left in the last session.

They still had seven wickets in hand as they whittled the target down to double figures, the clock just ticking past 5PM. Their stand reached 70, before Peter Younghusband had Popli caught behind down the leg-side on 35. But the Firebirds were now in an increasingly desperate situation.

Tim Seifer joined Carter who was approaching his half century, ND timing their run perfectly on the last arvo. Smith took a deep breath and caught the toe of Seifert's bat. Then the weather decided to get involved again, the players coming off for bad light when ND needed just a further 56 runs off 16 overs (minimum) at 3.5 per over.

Bad light turned to rain, the players left to stare in frustration at rain plopping on the white covers. Meanwhile, the Central Stags were closing in on a thrilling win in Dunedin. A win in Wellington would have given either ND or the Firebirds a clear lead on the table. Now they sat locked in the top slot on 42 points, but with the Stags (39) just three points behind, and breathing down their neck, and Canterbury moving up to 31 points.

The early leaders had both been pegged back.






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