Central Stag Ray Toole | PHOTOSPORT

Stags pull off thriller

Video Highlights



McLean Park, Napier

11-14 March 2021


Toss: Wellington Firebirds who bowled


First-class debut: Luke Georgeson (Wellington Firebirds)

Dane Cleaver 50th first-class match for the Central Stags

Ajaz Patel (Central Stags): maiden first-class half century

Dane Cleaver 150th first-class dismissal for the Central Stags

Bonus Points

Bowling: Wellington Firebirds 4 (maximum achieved), Central Stags 4 (maximum achieved)

Batting: Central Stags 0, Wellington Firebirds 0

Total Points This Round: Stags 16, Firebirds 4



A brilliant finish in the last hour of the match saw the Central Stags claim an against-the-odds victory, after the Wellington Firebirds had appeared to shut up shop six wickets down.

Blair Tickner took three late wickets with the new ball | PHOTOSPORT

What's more, they did it with two of their most experienced players - Seth Rance and Ross Taylor - off the park.

The Wellington Firebirds had started the day needing to chase down a target of 317, and ended it by losing their last wicket in a calamitous muddle, allrounder Jamie Gibson slipping over after having been sent scrambling back in a calling mix-up.

It was the rough end of the stick for Gibson who had been one of the Firebirds' few significant contributors with a half century, but equally, a fine reward for the never-say-die hosts who had fought their way back into a winning position with a flurry of four wickets in the last four overs of the game, despite being two men down.

Rewind to the first session of the day and only two wickets had fallen, the Firebirds going to lunch at 84/2 and tracking well. Luke Georgeson (36) was caught for no addition to his score after the break, but captain Michael Bracewell carried on to a half century and kept his side in the hunt.

By tea, the Wellingtonians were 175 for five - still a viable proposition, but with allrounder Josh Clarkson having picked up two handy wickets in Bracewell and Troy Johnson.

It was Blair Tickner's last spell that turned the game, however, claiming three wickets in the space of two overs and the last hour taken.

The first of these saw former Zimbabwe international, now Central Stags assistant coach Dion Ebrahim get himself on the park and in the game as a substitute fielder.

Ebrahim's first opportunity in the field was to make sure he took a spectacular catch in the deep to dismiss Logan van Beek on 39 - his charges ecstatic as it separated the two dangerous allrounders whose seventh-wicket stand had stood at 56, the largest yet in the chase.

The piece of brilliance lifted the Stags in the field, Tickner striking again with the new ball at the end of the over as Tom Bruce pouched the catch to remove new man Lauchie Johns.

The Firebirds were now suddenly 238/8, living dangerously if they were to lose another. And that they did, after just one more delivery from Tickner (4-73) at the start of his next over, the 89th, before the big pace bowler trapped Iain McPeake plumb.

In the interim Gibson had reached his fifty, and was playing to the end, with a six off Ray Toole to follow. But then calamity struck in the form of a virtual banana skin on the pitch as the Stags erupted in victory.


Moving day was the Stags' day with bat and ball - working their way into a position to take control, even despite a few more hiccups along the way.

The morning started with a flurry of wickets, swing bowler Seth Rance finishing with four and Blair Tickner 3-10, with tidy support from fellow pacemen Ray Toole and Josh Clarkson as they routed the Wellington Firebirds in their first innings for just 104: no spinners required.

Now the Stags embarked on their second dig with a handy 71-run lead on the still green-tinged surface, and this time George Worker got a chance to get going at the top.

The left-hander stayed at his post for two hours, falling just one shy of a half century and combining with Ross Taylor in a 42-run stand for the third wicket.

It was a key stand for the Stags after the early loss of Greg Hay and Will Young, the Test BLACKCAP departing lbw despite the ball hitting him above the knee roll at 37/2.

Taylor went on to a timely half century but Firebirds debutant Luke Georgeson continued to take the hosts by surprise with his prodigious outswing, claiming Hay, Taylor and Tom Bruce in the second innings for 3-39 off just 11 overs.

But the Stags found a way to fight back, with Ajaz Patel backing up his Ford Trophy career best batting just two weeks ago with his maiden first-class fifty.

Patel and Josh Clarkson (35) shared a 63-stand for the seventh wicket, and when Clarkson was caught off Firebirds captain Michael Bracewell, Seth Rance stepped in to larrop a couple of sixes alongside Patel (52 off 66) in a bright and breezy finish to the innings.

Hay declared nine down at 245, giving his bowlers a short four-over crack at the visitors before stumps.

The Firebirds survived and will head into the final morning at 2/0, needing a further 315 off 100 overs if they are to get up over the Central men.


With a light green deck offering zip, zing and the odd low bounce, both captains will have been eager to win the toss after the sun popped out for Day Two at McLean Park.

Wellington Firebirds captain Michael Bracewell called correctly and promptly sent his opposite number in - and didn't even have to wait a minute for the first wicket to fall.

Left-hand opener George Worker was trapped first ball of the innings, to the delight of Iain McPeake. It was just the start of a torrid session that saw four of the Stags' prime batsmen - Worker, BLACKCAPS Will Young and Ross Taylor and finally the captain Greg Hay himself - come and go in swift succession.

The wickets shared around the Wellington attack, at lunch the Stags were 71/4 with the middle order pair of Tom Bruce and Dane Cleaver managing to hold the fort for start before the interval.

The second session would see a modest recovery as they took their fifth-wicket stand to 73 valuable runs. After more than two hours at the crease, Bruce had picked his way to 37 before left-arm pace debutant Luke Georgeson managed to get him to prod a catch the safe hands of Peter Younghusband for his maiden wicket at 114/5, and would finished with a tidy 2-20 after picking up Ajaz Patel as well.

Cleaver went on to reach the only half century of the match, top-scoring with 63 in his 50th appearance for his side and when Logan van Beek had him caught at 150 for eight - wickets falling every few overs, the Firebirds would have had reasonable expectations of wrapping up the innings at speed.

But they were made to work for it by a defiant showing from Blair Tickner, the paceman having earnt a promotion to nine in the order and rewarding that faith with a 75-minute dig at the crease, threatening to reach a new career best as he ground his way to 19 runs.

McPeake (2-32), van Beek (2-48), Jamie Gibson (1-32) and spinner Bracewell all had a crack at him, but it wasn't until the return of Michael Snedden (3-37) after tea that the Firebirds finally broke the niggly 16-run stand with Ray Toole for the last wicket.

Every run mattered but the Stags nevertheless went in empty handed in the batting bonuses department while the Firebirds pocketing the maximum four bowling points for dismissing the Stags for 175 in 70 overs.

But with the sun only peeping out occasionally through the afternoon, now it was the Firebirds batsmen under return fire. Swing bowler Rance accounted for both openers, starting by skittling debutant Georgeson in the third over just after a missed chance against Tom Blundell.

He soon got Blundell anyway, knocking off the top of off in the seventh over at 18/2, but was in for a good battle with Devon Conway.

Blair Tickner (0-7 off five), Ray Toole (2-8 off six) and Josh Clarkson (1-5 off five) were all on their mark as they exerted pressure on the Firebirds through the remains the session, costing the Firebirds three further wickets - including the big one of Conway, the first drop providing Cleaver with one of two catches off the composed young Toole.

By stumps, captain Michael Bracewell shaped as a key man in the Wellington first innings, unbeaten on 11* with Peter Younghusband for company in the middle and a tough job to do from 60/5, after 23 fiery overs and 16 wickets falling during the day.

DAY ONE - Rain stalks the Stags

The luckless Central Stags will be on every farmer's Christmas card list this year with downpours following them around the country in their Plunket Shield campaign.

 Heavy rain: no play and no toss made.






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