Wellington Firebirds lost to the Central Stags by three wickets in Wellington
Fast bowler Adam Milne collected Logan van Beek as his 100th List A wicket after competition leaders the Stags opted to bowl first at the Basin, but a stubborn second-wicket partnership of 132 between Malcolm Nofal (78) and veteran first drop Stephen Murdoch (58) laid a foundation for the Firebirds to reach a total of 257 for eight.
Nofal and Murdoch’s efforts were a new Firebirds record against the Stags (previous mark: 117 by Jason Wells and Scott Weenink at the same venue in 1996/97).
The stand was broken at 150 for two only when a deflection off bowler Ajaz Patel’s hand ran out Murdoch at the non-striker’s end — a breakthrough that triggered a flurry of wickets and the second such freak dismissal the Stags had been involved in this week, this time not on the receiving end.
After a solid start, now the Firebirds were suddenly in danger of not batting out their overs until Luke Woodcock settled things down with an unbeaten 58 off 50 balls in an unbroken 49-run stand for the eighth wicket.
The remainder of the Firebirds’ contributions had been meagre, however the Stags got off to a shaky start in reply with the early loss of opener Ben Smith and Jesse Ryder.
Fellow opener George Worker (above) anchored the chase with his third consecutive Ford Trophy half century, but continued to lose partners as Alex Ridley (below) and Ollie Newton enticed costly mistakes from the middle order.
Worker (70) and 21-year-old Josh Clarkson (32) put together a steadying 53-run stand for the sixth wicket with Clarkson again building his innings in a measured fashion — before a successful shout from Iain McPeake, followed by Worker’s dismissal in the next over, saw the Stags pair of Seth Rance (a List A career best 41 not out off 34 balls) and Adam Milne (34 not out off 34) cast in needing to find the final 78 runs off 80 balls.
They did so with three overs to spare, setting a new Stags eighth wicket record for matches against the Firebirds of 78* (62 balls) in the process, edging the old mark of 76* that had been held by Carl Bulfin and Mark Douglas since 13 January 1998.
The Stags now head to Napier's McLean Park on Sunday for a spare round against ND, while the Firebirds will be battling Canterbury for their Ford Trophy life in Christchurch.