Plunket Shield round five: Wellington Firebirds 272 all out in 98.5 overs (Blundell 68, Patel 52; Smith 3-30, Craig 3-85) and 318 all out in 105.5 overs (Pollard 82, Franklin 139; Wagner 4-90) lost to the SBS Bank Otago Volts 377 in 118.2 overs (Ryder 108, Rodden 37, de Boorder 146; McKay 4-91, Patel 3-65) and 214/4 in 49.3 overs (Ryan Duffy 42, Bracewell 40, Ryder 65 not out, de Boorder 58 not out) by six wickets at Karori Park, Wellington
How's this for a script? Two century-makers from the first innings, together at the crease again unbeaten as they bring home the emphatic win they helped set up. That's how the last stanza at Karori played out as Jesse Ryder and Derek de Boorder finished off the job, sending the Firebirds' season into further turmoil in the process.
Having resumed at 270/7, the Firebirds had added another 48 runs in the morning before their centurion captain James Franklin finally gave way on 139, setting the Volts a chase of 214.
The Volts' attack had stuck to their task well, Neil Wagner unlucky to miss out on yet another five-for for the season. The Firebirds were able to respond with the early wicket of Aaron Redmond, and kept chipping away to get their opponents four down for 117. But they couldn't dislodge the belligerent Ryder, and with de Boorder backing him up the Volts cruised home.
The win saw the Volts to fourth spot on the table, equal on points with third-placed Canterbury but behind on net run rate, while the Firebirds remain on the bottom rung. The preamble to the match also saw Karori Park lose its warrant of fitness for first-class cricket, the forthcoming March 8-11 Plunket Shield game to be transferred to New Plymouth's Pukekura Park as a result.
If the SBS Bank Otago Volts can wrap up the Firebirds' innings early on day four, the game is there for the taking. Standing in their way is Wellington's captain James Franklin, who made his 20th first-class century under pressure to restore gist to his side late on the third day.
At stumps the Firebirds were 270/7 with Franklin unbeaten on 108, just 165 runs ahead and backed up at the crease by an experienced head in Jeetan Patel.
Having bundled out the Wellington Firebirds for 272 in awkward conditions, the Volts looked to be in early trouble as they slipped to 37/3. But Jesse Ryder made it look easy as he clinched his 20th first-class century — and by the end of the day, two of the Volts had three figures by their name.
Ryder's 108 against his former teammates was typical of his confident style, peppered with five sixes and eight boundaries, and at near run-a-ball pace for the most part. He eventually fell to a catch shortly after tea — as was the mode of dismissal for all others on the day — off Andy McKay, who had made the early breakthroughs by removing Ryan Duffy and Michael Bracewell cheaply ahead of him.
When McKay added a useful late wicket in Test cap Mark Craig, he stood poised for a five-for, with figures of 4-71 off his 23 overs. Resistance may continue, however, from Derek de Boorder, who dug in after the loss of Ryder and the end of their 100-run stand. By stumps, he'd found 20 boundaries in a patient 116 not out, the wicketkeeper's third first-class ton taking the Volts through to a 69-run lead at stumps.
Unusual ground conditions at Karori Park saw this encounter officially pushed back a day to enable the game — action getting underway on what had originally been scheduled as day two. So, day two was now officially day one, allowing time for issues with the placement of makeshift sightscreens to be resolved, and rain-affected, bare areas of the playing surface to be replaced by new turf.
When the ground was deemed fit, hosts the Wellington Firebirds struggled after being sent in. The top order fell over against first change Craig Smith, who finished the day with 3-20 off his 15 overs, well in sight of his career best figures; and spinner Mark Craig (3-85), who bowled a stubborn Stephen Murdoch, after the pivotal batsman had battled 70 balls for 17.
The SBS Bank Otago Volts had their own dramas, with pace bowler Neil Wagner calling for physio treatment in the middle of a spell after trouble running on the uncommonly sandy run-ups. Ultimately the Firebirds were grateful for a 42-run seventh wicket stand between Tom Blundell and Matt McEwan (22), that set the stage for Blundell to launch a recovery act with 68 off 171 balls.
That man Smith popped up again and had him caught, but Jeetan Patel’s bright half-century saw the first sixes smashed and he scored most of his runs in boundaries before he was dismissed by Wagner on 52 two overs before stumps. Patel had helped push the Firebirds out to 270/9 at close of play.
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