Wellington Firebirds v Northern Districts at Basin Reserve, Wellington 25-28 March 2018
Batting Bonus Points: Wellington Firebirds 0, Northern Districts 3
Bowling Bonus Points: Northern Districts 4, Wellington Firebirds 4
Total points this round: Firebirds 4, Northern Districts 19
Result: Northern Districts defeated the Wellington Firebirds by an innings and 56 runs inside two days
- Jimmy Baker took his 150th first-class wicket when he dismissed Michael Papps
- Scott Kuggeleijn took his 150th wicket for Northern Districts when he dismissed Alex Ridley
- Ish Sodhi: 11th five-wicket bag
- Ish Sodhi: Best bowling figures. Previous best 7-59
- Tim Seifert: fourth first-class Century
- Jeetan Patel took his 750th first-class wicket when he dismissed Tim Seifert
- Jeetan Patel 29th five-wicket bag, 11th for Wellington Firebirds
- Ish Sodhi took his 200th first-class wicket when he dismissed Devon Conway
- Ish Sodhi: 2nd haul of 10 wickets or more in a first-class match
- Ish Sodhi: Best first-class match analysis. Previous best 11-189
Having been the competition leaders heading into round nine, the Firebirds had a shocker against a Northern Districts side that was showing their best form a few rounds too late.
The ensuing defeat — only the second time they had been beaten this summer — would see the capital side sacrifice their points table lead, leaving them four points in arrears of the Stags and vulnerable heading into the final round that starts on Easter Monday, with a tough away game against the Aces and Auckland's unpredictable autumn weather left to contend with.
Not required by the BLACKCAPS during this round, ND leggie Ish Sodhi meanwhile continued making his statement with the red ball in the domestic arena with another brutal performance that ensured the match did not even reach the halfway mark.
The second day had begun with ND continuing their turn at bat, two quick strikes before the lunch break leaving them 276/8 in reply, a lead to ND of 139 runs and Tim Seifert unbeaten on 103.
Seifert would press on to 124, his fourth first-class century in a strong summer in all formats for the impressive wicketkeeper-batsman.
Daryl Mitchell (sharing a 58-run stand for the fifth wicket) and Nick Kelly (a 67-run stand for the sixth), had stuck around for Seifert as he dominated and flayed the attack, reaching his century at the Basin off just 155 balls (13 x 4, 1 x 6).
The Firebirds attack didn't give up, spin master Jeetan Patel bowling his heart out to stem the damage with the wickets of Kelly and Scott Kuggeleijn. Eight down on the stroke of lunch, Patel would go on to wrap up his 29th career first-class bag in the middle session, finally claiming Seifert on 124 among the final two wickets to stop the visitors on 323 and ensure his side at least took four bonus points from the bowling effort.
It would not be enough. By tea, the Wellington Firebirds were 65 for two in their second innings, trailing by 121 runs but with both influential openers dismissed, Stephen Murdoch (4*) and Michael Bracewell (0*) the fresh pair at the crease at the break.
The pair did not last long, Murdoch playing on and struggling captain Bracewell falling to a spectacular dive from Seifert who claimed the catch, off Jimmy Baker, in front of the nose of the surely startled first slip.
When Zak Gibson bowled Tom Blundell with a peach for no score, the Firebirds suddenly found themselves in a hot stew at 82 for five.
Ish Sodhi had claimed opening batsman Luke Woodcock early in the innings as his first breakthrough, and now when he had Devon Conway soon trapped cheaply, he was unstoppable. He quickly spun his way to a five-wicket bag to complement his seven-for in the first innings, and with it, ticked off his 200th first-class wicket and career-best haul of 12 wickets in the match.
Plunket Shield kingmakers Northern Districts now head to Napier's Nelson Park for a fascinating final-round duel with new leaders the Central Stags, the match beginning at 10am on Easter Monday. They will be without kingpin Ish Sodhi, however, who has today been called into the BLACKCAPS' Test squad to replace the injured Todd Astle.
The Firebirds remain live contenders, however, and can wrest the title with a strong performance in Auckland should the Stags fail to garner enough points from their last match.
Try keeping Ish Sodhi away from the bowling crease right now. Fresh from his seven for 98 against the Volts in last week's draw up north, today the Northern Districts leg-spinner ripped through the top-of-the-table Wellington Firebirds for a devastating, career-best 7-30.
Feb 2016: 7-102 v Otago Volts at University of Otago Oval (Volts won)
March 2017: 7-107 v Central Stags at Seddon Park, Hamilton (draw) (pink ball match)
March 2017: 7-59 v Otago Volts at University of Otago Oval (ND won)
March 2018: 7-98 v Otago Volts at Cobham Oval, Whangarei (draw)
March 2018: 7-30 v Wellington Firebirds at Basin Reserve, Wellington (match in progress)
It took Sodhi just 15.3 overs to put his hosts in a spin, all out for 137 on a deck that had looked green when his captain Daniel Flynn won the toss and opted to bowl. That said, last week's pitch at the same venue had also looked verdant, but proved a featherbed for the batsmen.
Without Luke Woodcock (who made a welcome return to play for following an unsettling blow to the helmet in the previous match), the Firebirds might have done it even tougher given then opener contributed 51 off the 137 runs, the back half of the order skittled in quick succession.
Earlier, Jimmy Baker (below) had got the ball rolling by dislodging Michael Papps on 23, the effective Hamilton seamer's 150th first-class wicket.
Sodhi entered proceedings early, claiming both Stephen Murdoch and Tom Blundell with his googly in consecutive overs. Firebirds captain Michael Bracewell had just got his toes into a recovery with Woodcock when Sodhi struck again, Bracewell unlucky to kick off his own stump on 16: out hit wicket, the Firebirds 124 for five.
Sodhi and Scott Kuggeleijn took care of the rest of the order between them with Sodhi suddenly needing just two further victims in the second innings to reach 200 first-class wickets.
At a stage of the competition where every point counts, the Firebirds had been denied any batting bonuses but they had a modicum of revenge before the day was through.
Northern Districts were 158/4 in reply at stumps, 14 wickets falling on day one and Daniel Flynn, Henry Cooper (32), Corey Anderson ( a racy 61 off 65) and Anton Devcich all back in the hutch.
Tim Seifert (31*) and Daryl Mitchell saw it through to the end of a dramatic day, ND holding a 21-run lead overnight.