Central Stags beat Wellington Firebirds by 43 runs (DLS)
Pukekura Park, New Plymouth
18 February 2022
Ford Trophy leaders the Central Stags have maintained their position at the top of the table after master batsman Ross Taylor smashed the fastest century in the competition's history.
The legend made it look almost effortless after the Stags were sent in by the Wellington Firebirds in a rain-reduced, late-starting 29-over game at Pukekura Park.
Taylor hit his hundred off 49 balls, breaking Peter Fulton's 50-ball record for the fastest century, set for Canterbury in the 2016/17 Grand Final against the Firebirds in Rangiora, by one ball.
He reached three figures in the final over, and finished unbeaten on 111 not out off 51 balls (14 boundaries, five sixes) with a flurry of boundaries off the last four deliveries, propelling the Stags to a strong total of 310 for five.
Taylor had key support from big-hitter Josh Clarkson who cracked 58 off just 35 balls in his 50th List A appearance, in a 115-run stand for the fourth wicket that built upon an opening platform from Bayley Wiggins (46) and Ben Smith (37).
Remarkably, Taylor's record feat almost immediately came under threat.
Needing more than 10 an over from the outset, and with a minimum 20 overs required for a result, the Firebirds were also in a race against the clock before the sun disappeared behind the terraces and bad light came into play.
The Firebirds backed their ability to hit the ball out of the park and took a fearless approach. Finn Allen blasted 49 off 29 balls, but Seth Rance and spinner Jayden Lennox countered with early wickets - Lennox eventually trapping Allen at 100/4 in the 14th over.
Michael Bracewell had been the Stags' nemesis at this ground in the Dream11 Super Smash when he blasted his match-winning record maiden T20 ton here earlier this summer.
The 'Beast' picked up where he had left off then as he took over the responsibility for escalating the strike rate, and powered to 93 off just 42 balls - with the ball replaced three times as it was sent on its way out of the park.
All up, he thundered eight sixes and six boundaries, at a rate than meant Taylor's newly minted record was in danger of surviving for little more than an hour.
But Lennox struck again to have Bracewell caught on the cusp, the Firebirds 184/6 and still behind the DLS par score of 227 on what proved to be the final delivery of the day before bad light ended play.
Bracewell's ballistics were not entirely in vain however, having denied the unbeaten Stags a bonus point by just three runs in the neck and neck race for the Final.
Taylor's century was his second List A hundred at Pukekura Park (the last having been against the Otago Volts in 2006); his fifth overall for the Central Stags; and the 26th List A century of his overall career.
It is also the third fastest List A century on New Zealand soil, after Corey Anderson's 36-ball national record against the West Indies at Queenstown in 2014 and Jesse Ryder's 46-ball century, also against the West Indies in Queenstown in 2014. Taylor's ton sits among the 31 fastest (by balls) List A centuries worldwide.
The two teams will meet in another top of the table encounter at the same venue on Sunday (again, behind closed gates, but with a free livestream) which will be the Firebirds' final match in the regular season while the Stags will have one game remaining in Auckland.
The top two teams at the end of the regular season will proceed to the Grand Final on 26 February.