Neil Broom and the Otago Volts have stunned the Northern Knights to hold on for a thrilling draw in their Plunket Shield match at Seddon Park in Hamilton.
The visitors had their backs up against the wall at the start of the day at 12 for two, but found hope through a sensational unbeaten knock of 146 from Broom.
Set 440 to win, the Volts accepted early that victory was out of the question. They remained positive in their approach though, playing their natural game as they fought hard to survive.
They did however lose wickets along the way, with night-watchman Neil Wagner the first player to falter when he was dismissed by James Baker on ten. Michael Bracewell went soon after and the Volts were looking dead and buried at 50 for four.
That brought together the Broom brothers at the crease, but Darren could only manage 21 before being trapped lbw by debutant Ish Sodhi. Neil remained, but continued to lose partners and in the 64th over was left in a dire position with his side 191 for seven.
Aid for the 28 year-old came from an unlikely suspect - spin bowler Mark Craig.
Coming in at nine and boasting a First-Class high score of 28, Craig produced a quite astounding innings to foil the Knights’ hopes of victory. Alongside Broom he produced a match saving partnership which was worth a hefty 149 for the eight wicket.
Unfortunately for Craig he fell just seven runs short of his century, in an innings which spanned 157 balls and featured 18 fours.
But if Craig was good, Broom was spectacular. The number four produced a perfectly timed century, which was undoubtedly the reason his side managed to cling on for a draw. Overall he withstood 267 balls and reaped a magnificent 146* for his efforts.
With Ian Butler as his partner, he saw out the match with his side holding two wickets in hand – albeit still 93 behind the Knight’s total.
It capped off an extremely unpredictable four days, where both side took turns at holding the upper-hand.
Northern storm in front
The Northern Knights have all but eliminated the Otago Volts’ chance of victory following a sensational display of batting on day three of their Plunket Shield match.
Daniel Flynn and Corey Anderson put on a staggering 283 for the fourth wicket to lead the Knights to 533 for six, before declaring with a substantial 439 run lead.
Both players brought up big centuries, in what proved to be a tedious day in the field for the Volts. To compound matters they lost both openers before the end of play to finish 12 for two and still 428 runs away from their target.
The real damage had been done earlier on in the day by Flynn and Anderson. James Marshall had fallen for 15 not long after the start of play, but the Volts’ celebrations were short lived.
Flynn was all class as he became the first of the day to bring up his century. His 12th First-Class ton came off 147 balls and featured 14 fours.
Not long after he was joined by Corey Anderson on triple figures, who brought up his maiden century in all forms of domestic cricket. He too was relatively quick, with his milestone including 16 fours and coming off 151 balls.
The pair remained at the crease until their side were sitting comfortably at 437 for three. Both brought up 150 and came within 27 of the record for longest ever Plunket Shield fourth wicket partnership.
In the 117th over Anderson was dismissed for 167, as Ian Butler finally made the breakthrough. Following a late flurry of sixes Flynn’s stint at the crease also came to an end when he was caught on 182.
His wicket saw the Knights declare, leaving the Volts to try survive ten overs before the end of play.
James Baker put the icing on the cake for the home side when he claimed the wickets of both Hamish (0) Rutherford and Aaron Redmond (1).
The Knights will now back themselves to take the last eight wickets on the final day to claim victory to what has been an intriguing match.
Northern, Otago locked in fierce battle
The Plunket Shield match between the Otago Volts and Northern Knights looks set to go down to the wire, with both sides fighting hard to gain the upper-hand.
Jimmy Neesham brought up his inaugural First-Class century to lead the Volts to 298 all out and attain a handy 94 run first-innings lead. The southerners were unable to capitalise though, as the Knights opening pair of Brad Wilson and Joseph Yovich made up the deficit.
The duo put on a 103 for the first wicket, but will be disappointed to have both been dismissed just before the end of play, leaving the Knights at 120 for two.
James Marshall will continue on 10 tomorrow and be joined by Daniel Flynn who is yet to face a ball.
Earlier the Volts had made a sensational recovery, having started the day at 71 for five. Derek de Boorder and Jimmy Neesham slowly carried their side back into the match with an extremely valuable 137 run partnership.
De Boorder was eventually undone in the 53rd over for 37, but not before he and Neesham had got their team to within 25 of the Knights first innings total.
Neesham though wasn’t perturbed by the loss of his partner and continued to accumulate runs at a fast pace in what was a mature performance.
The 22 year-old was rewarded with a century - his first in all domestic competitions – coming off just 121 balls. It was a special moment for the number seven, who is playing just his second First-Class match for the Volts.
The great innings came to an end when he was bowled by Corey Anderson on 124, but to the Knights' dismay the Volts weren’t yet ready to roll over.
Ian Butler turned on the razzle dazzle late in the innings, as the number ten clubbed an unbeaten 61 off just 49 deliveries. The spectacular show included ten boundaries overall, with four of them clearing the rope completely.
It capped off what had been a marvellous turn-around from the Volts, who may well feel they hold the advantage heading in to the final two days.
Otago under pressure
A total of 15 wickets fell in the first day of the Plunket Shield match between the Otago Volts and Northern Knights at Seddon Park in Hamilton.
The Knights made 204 having been put in to bat first, but proceeded to relegate the Volts to 71 for five at the end of the day and maintain a 133 run lead.
Joseph Yovich (21) and James Marshall (32) put on 37 for the second wicket – the equal top partnership from throughout the innings.
Wickets came at regular intervals and the momentum was consistently with the Volts. Ian Butler was the chief destroyer, but found valuable assistance from his supporting bowlers.
It took a sharp 48 from youngster Ish Sodhi to push the Knights past the 200 mark, before recent Under-19 World Cup teammate Jacob Duffy had him caught in the 72nd over.
Butler finished with figures of four for 39 from 17 overs, while Duffy, Neil Wagner and Jimmy Neesham all picked up two wickets each.
However any thought that there total was under-par proved to be far from accurate.
Wickets came thick and fast for the Knights, as the Volts pursuit capitulated. Aaron Redmond couldn’t add to his back-to-back centuries in the first round, dismissed for a duck by Brent Arnel.
It was the start of a stunning spell for the 33 year-old Arnel, who finished the day with figures of four for 15 from 10 overs. James Baker also picked up a wicket to leave the Volts reeling at 71 for five after 24 overs.
Neesham (28*) and Derek de Boorder (8*) will resume tomorrow for the visitors, having fought back somewhat towards the end of the day.