DAY FOUR: Canterbury 242 and 407-7 declared (Henry Nicholls 119, Cam Fletcher 59*, Mark Gillespie 80-3) lost to Wellington Firebirds 343 and 308-6 (Stephen Murdoch 155, James Franklin 75, Todd Astle 86-3) by four wickets.
Canterbury's second innings declaration set the Wellington Firebirds 307 to win in 62 overs, a 4.95 run an over chase that was losing its way until James Franklin joined Stephen Murdoch at 105-3. The pair put on 156 for the fourth wicket in 23 overs, including 19 from one Andy Ellis over. Franklin was brutal, hitting three sixes and four fours on his way to 75 from 54 balls before being caught and bowled by Todd Astle, putting his team within touching distance of the win.
Mark Gillespie was promoted to apply the finishing touches, but made just three before being caught by Cam Fletcher from Astle. Tom Blundell was then run out, leaving Wellington needing 20 from the last three overs, which Luke Woodcock and Murdoch achieved with six balls to spare, with the latter making his sixth first class century, ending on 155 from 164 balls. The breathtaking finish puts the Firebirds top of the Plunket Shield table and the win in a tough place to get a result.
Earlier, Mark Gillespie overtook Ewan Chatfield as Wellington's all-time leading wicket taker in all competitions when Michael Pollard caught Todd Astle at the close of the Canterbury innings. Henry Nicholls made 119 in Canterbury's second innings, with strong lower order support from Ellis (61) and Fletcher (59) that took their side to 407-7 before making their sporting declaration.
Rain has seen much of day three wiped out in the Plunket Shield match between Canterbury and the Wellington Firebirds at Hagley Oval.
The Firebirds will still feel they have half a chance to win, but a knock of 62 from Greg Dawson on debut for Canterbury kept the home side’s aspirations for a draw alive.
After facing a first-innings deficit of 91, Canterbury have fought to 226-4 in the second innings and hold a lead of 126 runs. They’ll look to hold the Firebirds off on day four and make sure their batsmen don’t have time to get the required runs.
After a lengthy rain delay at the start of day three, Dawson linked with Ronnie Hira (33) an Peter Fulton (37) at the top of the order to knock of Wellington’s advantage for the loss of just one wicket. He brought up is maiden half-century in the process – a special moment for the 22-year-old from Southland.
Three wickets In the space of 28 runs gave the Firebirds a sniff at a full scale collapse, but the middle-order duo of Henry Nicholls (44*) and Andrew Ellis (33*) held firm for the local team and pushed them beyond the 200 mark.
Mark Gillespie made the biggest inroads for the visitors with figures of 2-31 from 17 overs. He and the other bowlers will be desperate to get early wickets on day four and set up the batsmen for an exciting chase.
The Firebirds have gained a 91 run lead on day two of their opening Plunket Shield fixture against Canterbury at Hagley Oval in Chrsicthchurch.
Having posted a below par 242 in the first innings, Canterbury did well to limit the deficit to less than 100, but half-centuries from Michael Papps (67) and James Franklin (62) saw the Firebirds to 343 and a handy advantage,
The Firebirds may well feel disappointed not to have a bigger lead to play with, after a number of promising partnerships from the top order were broken after looking established.
At 213-6, it looked like the visitors may even fall short of Canterbury’s total. However a captain’s knock from Franklin steered his side to a position of power, with cameos from Jeetan Patel (28) and Mark Gillespie (29) also playing their part.
Andrew Ellis was the pick of the Canterbury bowlers, taking figures of four for 86 from 19.2 overs.
In response, Canterbury have started well, putting on 57 for the opening wicket. Rain delayed mush of the morning play on day three, but after 26 overs were 76-1 and still trailing by 23 runs.
DAY ONE: Canterbury 242 all out (Henry Nicholls 53, Todd Astle 44 not out, Ili Tugaga 73-3, Brent Arnel 38-3) lead Wellington Firebirds 56-1 (Michael Papps 20*) by 186 runs.
Mark Gillespie was chasing four wickets for the all-competition Wellington record, but he was upstaged by team mates Ili Tuagaga and Brent Arnel, who took three wickets each to bowl the hosts out for 242 on day one.
Under clear blue skies at Hagley Oval, the Firebirds struck in the third over, when Tuagaga bowled Ronnie Hira for six. Peter Fulton was on his way soon after for three, caught by Stephen Murdoch from the same bowler. Neil Broom (35) and Andy Ellis (39) offered support to Henry Nicholls (53), the only Canterbury batsman to go over 50, through the middle of the innings to rebuild the innings.
Jeetan Patel removed Nicholls, caught behind by Tom Blundell, before Brent Arnel started cleaning up the tail, removing Ellis, Ben McCord and Kyle Jamieson for a duck. Todd Astle was the not out batsman, scoring 44 runs that may prove valuable in a total of 242.
In reply, the Firebirds openers were found life difficult, and Ellis struck late in the day to remove Brady Barnett for 18. Ili Tuagaga ended his day with a breezy nightwatchman appearance, ending on 14* from 16 balls including four fours, alongside Michael Papps on 20*. It remains to be seen if the Canterbury bowlers can extract the same assistance from the Hagley Oval pitch as the visitors on day two.