The Wellington Firebirds ended a barren spell in emphatic fashion by posting a huge win over the Otago Volts in their Plunket Shield match today.
The fourth round match ended partway through the second session on the final day at the Basin Reserve in Wellington when the last Volts wicket fell with their second innings total at just 155.
That left the Firebirds the victors by 286 runs, their first win of the season and a welcome respite after they came off a most unsuccessful 2010-2011 campaign.
Only opener Craig Cumming caused them any inconvenience today as he stuck around for more than three hours to make a doughty 61 containing five fours.
But the next leading score was the modest 19 provided by Sam Wells as the Firebirds bowlers refused to loosen their grip when the Volts resumed this morning at 30 for one.
Young seamer Scott Kuggeleijn, left-armer Andy McKay and offspinner Jeetan Patel all played important roles for the Firebirds.
Kuggeleijn ended with the best figures of four for 50 off 12.3 overs, Patel demanded respect in garnering three for 49 off 28 and McKay did his part to take two for 34 off 19.
Day 3: Franklin fires for Firebirds
James Franklin has presented the Wellington Firebirds with a grand opportunity to break their Plunket Shield duck this season when their match against the Otago Volts concludes in the capital tomorrow.
The international struck a quality century on today’s penultimate day to ensure the Firebirds take a firm grip on the outcome.
His unbeaten 106, spread over 222 minutes and featuring 11 fours and one six, enabled his skipper Grant Elliott to declare the Firebirds’ second innings at 371 for seven at the Basin Reserve, setting the Volts an unlikely 440 runs to win the match outright.
The visitors enter the last day having erased 30 of those runs but lost Aaron Redmond in the last over of the day for eight when offspinner Jeetan Patel found the edge of his bat.
Franklin’s 14th first-class century, and his eighth for the Firebirds, dominated his team’s scorebook after they restarted their second innings this morning at 93 for one and wanting another solid day’s toil to boost their chances of securing their first outright result of the summer.
Transplanted opener Stephen Murdoch advanced from his overnight 51 before departing for 74 then Franklin took over, assisted more than ably by middle order rock Luke Woodcock.
These two enjoyed another profitable stand, this time putting on 156 for the fifth wicket before Woodcock’s three-hour stay was ended when he’d scored 66.
The Volts bowlers toiled manfully but were made to sweat for any success they enjoyed, with English fast bowler Steven Finn the pick of them as he took three for 71 off 26 overs.
Day 1: Firebirds get the better of Volts
The Wellington Firebirds have shown signs of a revival as their Plunket Shield match reached the halfway point in Wellington today.
Without a win through three rounds of the four-day competition the Firebirds fired at last to secure first innings points over the Otago Volts at the Basin Reserve.
They will now look to push on over the remaining two days and target outright points to help them make up lost ground on the points table.
The Firebirds head into the third day leading overall by 163 runs after advancing to 93 for one in their second innings, with Stephen Murdoch on 51 and newly promoted first drop Harry Boam on 37.
Earlier, they dismissed the Volts for 242 after having stretched their own first innings to 312, which represented a mighty fight back considering they were teetering on the brink at 112 for five at one stage on the opening day.
They Firebirds lost their last remaining wicket for the addition of 20 runs this morning, with Jeetan Patel departing for a defiant 81 as left-arm fast bowler Neil Wagner snared his seventh scalp of the innings.
Wagner was magnificent in taking career best figures of seven for 96 off 24.5 demanding overs.
But even he was forced to play second fiddle for long periods against Patel, who hit 12 fours and one six off 92 balls and shared a stand of 118 for the eighth wicket on the first day with Luke Woodcock, who made 84.
The Firebirds seam attack then got to work on the Volts, the top order being swept aside as Scott Kuggeleijn, Andy McKay and James Franklin reduced the visitors to 77 for five before the lunch break.
They hunted well as a pack as only Wagner, gloveman Derek de Boorder and Nathan McCullum caused them any grief.
Wagner showed his allround skills by hitting out boldly to make 66 not out of just 43 balls, with seven sixes and five fours, while de Boorder made 47 in two hours and McCullum 46 in 150 minutes.
Left-arm swing bowler McKay had the best figures of four for 57 off 17.4 overs while Kuggeleijn took three for 74 off 14 and offspinner Patel two for 54 off 18.
Day 1: Volts make life difficult for Firebirds
There was no respite for the Wellington Firebirds despite a return to the familiar surrounds of the Basin Reserve for their Plunket Shield match against the Otago Volts today.
The comforts of home did not translate into tangible rewards as Luke Woodcock topscored with 84 as they struggled to 292 for nine on the opening day of the four-day match in the capital.
Woodcock, fresh from a century against the Auckland Aces, and Jeetan Patel, who was 70 not out at the close, breathed fresh life into the innings as they shared a partnership of 118 for the eighth wicket to rescue their cause.
Heading into the fourth round of the competition in sixth and last place and with only 11 points to their name, the Firebirds had been hoping for a significant change in fortune.
But it did not come early on today as the Volts bowlers dominated proceedings, particularly left-arm quick Neil Wagner, who ended the day with figures of six for 86 off 24 overs, his sixth haul of five or more wickets in an innings for the major association.
The Firebirds were on the back foot from the outset after Volts skipper Aaron Redmond invited the hosts to bat upon winning the toss.
Wagner removed opener Michael Papps and first drop Stephen Murdoch for ducks then Ian Butler had captain Grant Elliott nicking behind for nine as the Firebirds shifted uneasily in their seats at 23 for three.
That became 67 for four when Wagner accounted for Stewart Rhodes for 25 although the bleeding was stemmed, not for the first time this season, by the experienced middle order pair of James Franklin and Woodcock.
These two put on 45 precious runs before James McMillan induced an edge from Franklins bat after the left-hander had made a neat 50 in more than two hours, including six fours.
Woodcock and youngster Harry Boam kept the Volts waiting as they shared a stand of 43, Boam’s contribution ending at 33 when Wagner had him caught by Redmond.
Woodcock continued to place a heavy price on his wicket and reach his own 50 in 181 minutes as he did his best to hold the Firebirds lower order together.
Patel, better known for his spin bowling, more than played his part by hitting 70 off 85 balls, his sixth first-class half-century featuring 10 fours and one six, to inject some late impetus and help take some of the pressure off Woodcock, who departed after 269 minutes when he edged Wagner behind.