Stephen Murdoch made his seventh first-class ton on day two

Firebirds force a stalemate in Queenstown

Plunket Shield round six: Wellington Firebirds 297 in 96.5 overs (Murdoch 121, Blundell 31, extras 37; Wagner 5-73, Jacob Duffy 3-72) and 255/5 in 85 overs (Papps 110, Pollard 44, Blundell 29*, Day 36*) drew with the SBS Bank Otago Volts 251/8 declared in 80 overs (Redmond 50, Rutherford 36, Ryder 58; McEwan 3-70) at Queenstown Events Centre, Queenstown.

Video scorecard

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DAY FOUR

Almost everyone in the SBS Bank Otago Volts team — even wicketkeeper Derek de Boorder — got a bowl as the final day ended in a draw, after just two sessions. The only man absent from the attack was Test spinner Mark Craig.

Whether he would have made a difference is a moot point, the day getting underway at 11am as the pesky wet weather cleared off, before the Firebirds dug in for what turned out to be a long spell of batting practice.

Michael Papps provided the statistical highlight of the day with his 26th first-class century (his sixth for Wellington, posting it in style with consecutive boundaries off Craig Smith after lunch), to go with the 200 dismissals he'd chalked up earlier in the game. He had good support from Michael Pollard, but there was no Firebirds declaration as he passed the milestone.

It was a statistical win for the Papps, but no win on the table for Franklin

Tom Blundell and Alecz Day came together in the middle session for a final unbroken 65-run stand. The match going nowhere by tea, both sides agreed to call the game a draw, the Firebirds remaining at the bottom of the table after having built a meaningless 301-run lead.

DAY THREE

After the Firebirds' Matt McEwan made a key breakthrough by removing Jesse Ryder for not too much further damage, the Volts scrabbled through to 251/8 from their overnight tally of 162/3 — James Franklin picking up a wicket in his second over as he shook off his injury-enforced absence from the bowling crease — before generously declaring 46 runs behind, in order to keep the carrot of a result on the table for both sides.

Volts strike man Neil Wagner then picked up his sixth wicket for the match in opener Deepak Joon, but Michael Papps (unbeaten on 44) and Stephen Murdoch saw off the storm to get the Birds to 70/1.

Unfortunately, a different kind of storm loomed on the hills. Rain had bothered the start of the game and now it returned, with only 45 overs of play possible before players went off in the middle session, the Firebirds holding a 116-run lead with nine in hand overnight. 

DAY TWO

Stephen Murdoch, having been 74 overnight, soldiered on to his seventh first-class century — a crucial performance for the Firebirds before the Volts' Test paceman Neil Wagner began zeroing in to bag himself his 20th first-class five-wicket haul.

Already in the match, Tom Blundell had become Wagner's 400th first-class wicket, and Wagner got the big one when he brought Murdoch's vigil to a close — after over six hours at the crease: 121 from 244 balls. That was Wagner's third, and once the lone ranger was gone, he and Jacob Duffy made short work of the rest of the order to put the Firebirds back in the hutch for 297.

The Volts started well in reply, Aaron Redmond chalking up yet another half-century in his productive season, off 88 balls, after racing through the forties with consecutive boundaries off Andy McKay; while Hamish Rutherford's eyes had appeared to be back in focus as he put together 36 in his first dig after laser surgery.

Michael Bracewell replaced Rutherford in the middle in the 19th over, but just as he and Redmond had cut the Firebirds' lead down to 199, the duo fell on consecutive deliveries — Bracewell on the last ball of Brent Arnel's 12th over and Redmond first ball of Matt McEwan's, the 28th.

That brought together Jesse Ryder and Ryan Duffy, both yet to score. Ryder loomed as a major threat, unbeaten on 52 from just 76 balls at stumps in an unbroken stand of 64, the Volts closing the day at 162/3 to be just 135 runs behind.

DAY ONE

Rain delayed the start of day one until 3pm, and once underway Jacob Duffy got the ball rolling for the hosts with the early wicket of Michael Papps. At 114/3, the Firebirds, who'd been sent in, needed a stabiliser and Stephen Murdoch provided it, seeing them through to 179/3 by stumps, unbeaten on 74 overnight after a watchful, 65-run recovery stand late in the day with captain James Franklin (25*).

This match was the return to cricket for Test opener Hamish Rutherford for the SBS Bank Otago Volts, after having had laser surgery on his eyes. In the other change to the Volts' line-up, Roald Badenhorst, who had previously played 11 first-class fixtures for the Stags before moving south this season, was named in his maiden first-class game for the Volts, coming in for an injured Sam Wells (minor calf injury). For the Firebirds, Ili Tugaga (12th man) replaced Luke Woodcock in the squad, Alecz Day assuming the spinning all-rounder role in the eleven.

The match was Jeetan Patel's 100th first-class game for Wellington and, cricket being cricket, he got a duck and took no wickets.

Jeetan Patel

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