Central force draw thanks to How

The Central Stags can thank captain Jamie How for emerging from their Plunket Shield match against the Wellington Firebirds with an honourable draw at Napier today.

Rain delayed play for more than two hours before the four-day fixture petered out to a tame draw at Nelson Park.

But there was still plenty to admire on the final day as How made 187 not out to lift the home team to 377 for four in their second innings before both teams shook hands.

After James Franklin struck 162 and Stephen Murdoch 103 in the Firebirds’ only innings of 536 for six declared which gave them a first innings lead of 283 runs, the Stags made the game safe through How’s steely determination.

He and veteran Mathew Sinclair cooled their heels for the entire first session which was lost to rain but resumed after lunch on 126 and 42 respectively with the Volts on a healthy 267 for two.

Once the skies cleared they continued their march onwards as the two former internationals racked up more milestones, with Sinclair going past 50 for the 94th time in his first-class career before falling for 69 after close to three hours at the crease in his 100th first-class outing for the Stags.

Greg Todd came and went cheaply but How forged on to finish just three short of his career best 190 not out. He was a picture of concentration, proving immovable in an innings lasting 451 minutes and featuring 23 fours from 325 balls faced.

Day 3: How, Frankin appreciate conditions

Napier’s Nelson Park showed precisely why batsmen appreciate playing in Hawke’s Bay as the runs piled up in the Plunket Shield cricket match between the Wellington Firebirds and Central Stags today.

International James Franklin filled his boots with a mighty knock of 162 in Wellington’s first innings of 536 for six declared, then Stags captain Jamie How helped himself to 128 not out as the hosts reached 267 for two by the close of the third day.

That left the Stags trailing overall by 16 runs entering the final day with no signs that the Nelson Park pitch is about to deteriorate any time soon.

The Stags, who made a wholly unconvincing 253 in their first innings, started today staring down the barrel as the Firebirds resumed on 407 for five, with Franklin on 127 and Luke Woodcock on 50.

The home side were made to wait for a breakthrough as Franklin and Woodcock extended their sixth wicket stand to 198 before left-hander Franklin was finally removed after 357 minutes at the crease.

His 13th first-class century contained 19 boundaries from 278 balls faced but Franklin’s departure did not hold Wellington back as Woodcock went on to 86 not out while Harry Boam belted a quickfire, unbeaten 55 from 35 balls before the declaration.

Boam was at the crease for just 39 minutes during which he peppered the boundary 10 times.

The Stags were much more secure the second time around despite losing opener Peter Ingram for 15.

How and 20-year-old Ben Smith showed their liking for the conditions to put on 150 for the second wicket, scoring freely at almost a run-a-minute pace before Smith was dismissed for 68 by debutant Scott Kuggeleijn.

In just his second first-class match it marked the third time in four innings that the rookie has passed 50.

Former international How pushed on to his 14th century in 99 matches at this level, ending the day with 16 fours beside his name in a stay which has so far stretch to more than five hours.

He will take guard tomorrow with another old head at the other end in Mathew Sinclair, who provided 42 runs of their third wicket 71-run partnership.

* Image: Jamie How batting

Day 2: Twin tons leave firebirds in control at Napier

Centuries from Stephen Murdoch and James Franklin helped the Wellington Firebirds into a position of strength in their Plunket Shield match against the Central Stages at Napier.

Murdoch crafted a classy 103, his third first-class century in 11 matches, and Franklin scored 127 not out as the visitors reached 407 for five at stumps on the second day of the four-day fixture at Nelson Park, holding a lead of 154 runs.

The 28-year-old Murdoch resumed this morning on 14 alongside skipper Grant Elliott on three with the Firebirds on 59 for three in pursuit of the Stags’ opening effort of 253.

By the time Murdoch departed, bowled by young quick Adam Milne, the Firebirds had pocketed the first innings points, and Franklin ensured their advantage was extended as he registered the 13th century of his career in an increasingly dominant performance.

Murdoch’s 316-minute stay was punctuated by 10 fours and one six as he treated the season opener as an opportunity to build on his progress last summer when he scored 532 first-class runs at an average of 53.20.

He and Elliott set the tone for the day with a commanding stand of 108 for the fourth wicket before Elliott was dismissed for 62 after 131 minutes of diligent work.

Once Murdoch was finally prised out Franklin took centre stage and passed three figures immediately after the drinks break in the third session, reaching the milestone off 185 balls in 233 minutes with 12 fours.

The allrounder found more than able support from Luke Woodcock, who contributed an unbeaten 50 to their unbroken sixth wicket partnership of 134.

* Image: Grant Elliott shakes the hand of Stephen Murdoch

Day 1: Ingram carries Stags | Kuggeleijn shines for Firebirds

New Wellington Firebirds recruit Scott Kuggeleijn has wasted no time winning over new admirers.

The 19-year-old rookie fast bowler made an immediate impact in his Plunket Shield first-class debut today as he helped dismiss the Central Stags for 253 in their first innings at Napier’s Nelson Park.

The Firebirds responded by reaching an unconvincing 59 for three at stumps on the first day of the four-day match, with young fast bowler Adam Milne dismissing both openers Josh Brodie and Michael Papps cheaply.

Kuggeleijn, who attracted considerable newspaper attention before the match when voicing a liking for hitting opposition batsmen, backed up his words by taking three for 55 off 16 overs as the Stags staggered after making a highly promising start.

An opening stand of 136 between Peter Ingram and Jamie How gave no hint at what was to follow as all 10 wickets tumbled for 117 runs.

The free scoring Peter Ingram took the early initiative in making 81 off 127 balls while How played the foil in making 46 in 149 minutes before being run out by Harry Boam.

Kuggeleijn then almost immediately had former one-day international Ingram caught by Mark Gillespie, his removal leaving the Stags at 139 for two in the 40th over.

It was all downhill for the Stags from there, as Kuggeleijn trapped the prolific Mathew Sinclair in front for a six-ball duck before bowling Greg Todd for an eight-ball duck.

The only resistance came from Kieran Noema-Barnett, who made 42, and legspinner Tarun Nethula, who held out for precisely 100 minutes before being the last man out for 27.

While Kuggeleijn had the best figures, the Wellington attack operated well as a unit, with Gillespie, James Franklin and Grant Elliott all taking two wickets apiece.

* Image: Peter Ingram

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