Devon Hotel Central Stags 145-6 (George Worker 58, Jamie How 28, Dane Hutchison 2-23, Brent Arnel 2-25) lost to Wellington Firebirds 146-2 in 16.0 overs (Stephen Murdoch 61, Michael Pollard 44) by
What a difference a day makes. The covers stayed parked in the groundman’s hut as sun scorched down on Eden Park once more and sixes flew around the park. Sixteen of them, as batsmen seized on the slightest shortfall in length to keep the boundary riders on their toes in each innings.
It was an entertaining battle — but ultimately the Devon Hotel Central Stags were left ruing the fact that they hadn’t pressed the leather harder, after being sent in by the Wellington Firebirds. Their tally of 145-6 was deemed 20 runs short of par for the conditions, but the resurgent Firebirds’ pace attack had succeeded in making their task difficult.
Burly English pro Luke Fletcher again showed he’s the king of the yorker, particularly at the death. Dane Hutchinson was challenging, while Brent Arnel survived an early ding-dong battle with Jamie How — who flung two huge sixes off the top edge — and a painful knock to the elbow to come back strongly and pick up two wickets. Tall George Worker timed the ball elegantly, underpinning the Stags’ total with his handsome, 41-ball half-century.
However, the strike rate never quite recovered after How’s dismissal, and when Worker was dismissed eight runs after marking his 50, off the last ball of Hutchinson’s set, an opportunity to storm through the last over and regain some ground was missed. Roll in a top drawer running catch by James Franklin to cut off the barnstorming How on 28; a smoothly executed sliding catch at mid-on by Stephen Murdoch to get rid of Ben Smith and the slightest feather off the glove of Will Young that sent him back for just one run as he looked to pull Arnel and the Firebirds had put themselves in the box seat.
The Stags started the defence well, Firebirds opener Matt Taylor forced into skying a Seth Rance bullet to a waiting Adam Milne, for no score. But there was little more to celebrate for the Central men as the Firebirds proceeded to chalk up two 50-run partnerships.
The first, between Michael Pollard and Murdoch for the second wicket, was an indulgence of controlled, classic striking that laid the groundwork for a sizeable victory. The second, between the unbeaten Murdoch and Brad “Grey Power” Hodge, quickly saw the Australian maestro smashing the ball high into the South Stand for the first of his three sixes. Murdoch’s 50 came up off 32 balls before the duo’s blazing finish brought home the eight-wicket win with four overs to spare — first drop Murdoch having carved five sixes of his own.