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Stranded in paradise

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ROUND THREE

CENTRAL STAGS lost to WELLINGTON FIREBIRDS by 5 wickets

6 December 2020
Fitzherbert Park, Palmerston North

SCORES

Young Firebirds batsman Jakob Bhula might be wondering when, if ever, he's going to crack three figures against the Central Stags.

The 21-year-old was dismissed in 99 in Lincoln against the Stags last year and today he was left stranded on 97 not out. The difference is this time he closed out a tight win to get the Firebirds on the board.

The result leaves the Central Stags as the only side yet to get a win heading into Tuesday's fourth round, but they had their chances after a strong start with the bat and some impressive spin bowling through the back 15 overs of the match, led by Jayden Lennox in the absence of Ajaz Patel.

But in front of a good crowd at Palmerston North's Fitzherbert Park, they took their foot off the pedal and let the Firebirds back in the game.

Stags captain Tom Bruce had won the toss and batted on a day that was fine and sunny for the first innings before cloud cover and a cool wind chilled the Firebirds' reply later in the afternoon.

George Worker and Bayley Wiggins made a positive start with Wiggins hitting the first six off Hamish Bennett in just the fourth over, and Worker carrying on to a half century off the back of his 14th List A hundred in the previous innings.

Ben Sears broke the opening stand at the end of the 10th over with Wiggins caught on 30 at 54/1.

Worker (52) recombined with Ben Smith (79) at a ground at which each has had success in the past, putting on 69-stand for the second.

However, when Worker became the first of three victims for the day for legspinner Peter Younghusband, the innings lost its momentum.

Younghusband was in for a busy day, later pouching a straightforward lofted catch in the deep to put a stop to the dangerous big-hitter Josh Clarkson who had looked to add impetus to the run rate with a quick 39 off 29 balls.

And, he'd just helped run out a sprawling Joey Field with a good throw to Iain McPeake.

The Stags got up to 261 for nine in their 50 overs with a late burst of 19* off 11 from Liam Dudding, but would have been disappointed after having been set for a score of 300 plus.

As the weather started to cool, the Firebirds warmed up for the reply with Andrew Fletcher ensuring they got off to a solid start, his well paced half century coming off 70 balls.

He shared a 51-stand with Lauchie Johns who became the first to fall when he was run out by Seth Rance, while Fletcher went on to put on 65 for the second with Bhula that took the Firebirds into the 24th over at 116 for two.

The partnerships kept piling up on the Stags, Bhula then finding support from captain Michael Bracewell for a 53-run stand for the third.

Bhula kept going, his half century arriving off 72 balls before a test from the spinners towards the end of the match put the result on the line. The Firebirds needed seven an over through the death with Jayden Lennox going for just 2.80 off his 10 overs.

George Worker and Jayden Lennox kept the screws on | PHOTOSPORT

He bowled Fraser Colson for his second wicket in the 44th but the arrival of Jamie Gibson meant the Firebirds had a good finisher at the crease at a timely moment.

Gibson pumped an unbeaten 27* off just 18 balls, including a six off Seth Rance that left teammate Bhula without the chance to get across the line for his century.

But the unbeaten first drop did get to hit the winnings runs, peeling back to back boundaries off the next two balls to finish on 97 not out off 114 balls.

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