CENTRAL STAGS lost to OTAGO VOLTS by 10 runs
1 December 2020
Pukekura Park, New Plymouth
Jarrod McKay List A debut
Travis Muller maiden List A five-wicket bag
Joey Field maiden List A wickets
George Worker 14th List A century; 10th for Stags
The Stags and Otago Volts were in for another late start, and late finish, at Pukekura Park in a rain-reduced 24-over match that began at 4PM.
A rainstorm the previous day brought significant wind overnight that had given the covers a good rattling, but fine weather on game day helped dry out the block in time for the Central Stags’ 70th anniversary match - commemorating the day the first CD team stepped on the park in a Plunket Shield match at the Basin Reserve.
A classic George Worker century, his fourth at Pukekura Park, would keep the hosts in a tough chase right until the last over of the high-scoring clash and extend Worker's own record for the most centuries for any Ford Trophy side, but there the fairytale ended for the Stags.
Otago Volts paceman Travis Muller instead finished on a career high as he dismissed Worker at the critical moment with his first ball of the last over, then grabbed another two wickets in the next three balls to not only snatch victory away from the Stags, but nail his maiden List A bag in thrilling fashion.
The 10-run win means the Volts go two from two after two, quite novel shortened matches to open their campaign, whilst the Stags head to Palmerston North next Sunday still looking to get on the board, with rain tailing them around New Zealand this summer.
The action didn't disappoint, however, in a busy contest between bat and ball.
Skipper Tom Bruce had sent the Volts in on his home turf, but opposing captain Hamish Rutherford again looked in thunderous touch at the top.
Rutherford followed up his 97 on Sunday with 62 off just 27 balls, supported by Neil Broom who kicked on to 69 off 47 after their 91-run opening stand, while Mitch Renwick anchored the back half of the innings with an unbeaten 41*.
Stags rookie Joey Field later fought back with the ball in the middle stages of the first innings to not only claim his maiden List A wicket - Josh Finnie, but a four-for that put him in line for a 5-wicket bag in just his second match.
But it was just not that kind of day for the Stags.
Field would have to settle for 4-42 at the unforgiving ground with its short boundaries, and later the youngster also had the bittersweet taste of his first runs being a phyrric boundary off the last ball of the match when the last chance of victory had just vaporised before he arrived in the middle — thanks to rampant Muller stepping up in a Volts attack that was minus its regular death bowlers, who had been away in the New Zealand A side.
It was a match packed with twists, turns, oddities. And, poignancy - both teams and officials marking the passing of former Otago CEO Ross Dykes before the match; and good sportsmanship.
Veteran Broom denied his debutant teammate Jarrod McKay his own maiden List A wicket. Broom felt the would-be catch off Worker brushed the turf on his way down.
Great sportsmanship from @OtagoVolts Neil Broom. Disappointment for young Jarrod McKay who thought he had his maiden List A wicket, but Broom (back to the field) believed it wasn't a fair catch #FordTrophy #cricketnation pic.twitter.com/1tRB8lD61t— #NZIII (@MargotButcher) December 1, 2020
Likewise, Field had thought he has his maiden wicket in Rutherford on 44* when Christian Leopard collected would might have been his first of Leopard's three catches on day, had Leopard not misjudged the rope.
In the battle of the left-handed openers, wily Worker very nearly carried his bat as he batted into the final over for the Stags, keeping them on target throughout in a 9-RPO chase that was on the stiff side, even on Pukekura Park, as the gloom descended and the match again pushed past 7.30PM.
It was a Worker special to mark the 70th anniversary, his 14th List A century raised off just 65 balls with his trademark vicious pull strokes.
It also extended the left-hander's record centuries tally for the Stags to 10, and was his fourth Ford Trophy ton at Pukekura Park.
But this time it was not to be a winner. Muller, shouldering the last-over duties after Jacob Duffy had departed for New Zealand A, had earlier claimed both Tom Bruce and Christian Leopard, and saved his best for last with his explosive three wickets in the final over - crucially stopping Worker on 125 with the first of them, then putting himself on a hat-trick with Brad Schmulian next ball.
He would have to settle for the three wickets in four balls as he blew away the Stags' final push for the finish line and his maiden five-wicket bag (5-34 off five overs) in a memorable 10-run win as the shadows consumed the far reaches of the ground.
Travis Muller after claiming a maiden List A 5-wkt bag in @OtagoVolts 10-run win v @CentralStags. A tense game with a lot of moments. Worker's 100. A maiden wicket eluding Jarrod McKay (he thought he had it). Joey Field's maiden 4fa + his 1st runs in a yuck situation #FORDTROPHY pic.twitter.com/xjt42XGq64— #NZIII (@MargotButcher) December 1, 2020
The Stags will look to get on the board at Fitzherbert Park against Canterbury on Sunday while the Volts head back to Auckland to take on their bogey team this season, as yet winless defending champions the Auckland Aces.