RESULT: WELLINGTON FIREBIRDS beat OTAGO VOLTS by 8 wickets with a day to spare
At the Basin Reserve, Wellington
TOSS: Wellington Firebirds who elected to bowl
Notes: Volts captain Jacob Duffy achieved his 150th first-class wicket amid a career best performance with the ball.
On their green seamer the Wellington Firebirds helped themselves to the first outright win of the 2019/20 Plunket Shield, collecting the maximum 20 points for their trouble.
Rain washed over Wellington early on the third morning before the Volts could resume at 62/2 (with Cam Hawkins retired not out) after lunch, still with 111 runs to find to bring themselves level in the second innings.
As play got underway at last, Neil Broom was not permitted to add to his overnight score of 10*, squirting a catch off Hamish Bennett three overs into the session.
Nick Kelly was joined by Dean Foxcroft at 77 for three and the pair played positively, Kelly racing along to 40 off just 68 balls. Bennett struck again, however, a gem of delivery knocking over Kelly's off-stump at 114 for four.
Enter sharp Firebirds youngster Ben Sears, who delivered a one-two punch in the 48th over, Mitch Renwick and Nathan Smith both making quick exits. Volts hopes of a fightback were suddenly being clinically disassembled, still trailing in their second innings and now six down.
Captain Jacob Duffy was tasked with helping Foxcroft reach the 150-mark, and swiped it up himself with a six over square off Jimmy Neesham in the 54th over.
Spading 44 off 46 balls, he provided some bold support for Foxcroft until Sears stopped him at 206 for seven. Foxcroft reached his maiden first-class half century but from there, even with Hawkins returning to the crease, the end of the Volts innings was nigh, bowled out for 219 to set their hosts a meagre chase of 47 runs, Malcolm Nofal grabbing a career best 4-15 off 15.2 overs.
Duffy struck twice to console himself with nine wickets for the match, taking him to a first-class career tally of 154, but the Volts will head home to the University of Otago Oval determined to get their campaign on track against the Aces in a potential milestone match for longtime servants Neil Broom (99 matches for the Volts) and Hamish Rutherford (99 first-class matches).
Biting back with the ball in a devastating middle session on the second afternoon at the Basin, Volts captain Jacob Duffy snared a first-class career-best seven for 89.
The captain's effort ensured the Firebirds lost their last six first innings wickets for just 67 runs (and three of the bigger wickets, Devon Conway, Jimmy Neesham and Logan van Beek, for just five runs) - handing the Volts the maximum bowling bonuses.
It still wasn't enough to stop the Firebirds from pocketing a 173-run first innings lead, however, the fightback had the Volts openers padding up at tea, and firing up for a big restitutional second innings.
Earlier, the home top order had been making sterling progress. Rachin Ravindra continued from overnight to reach 76, while the prolific Devon Conway was looking good for the first Firebirds hundred of the summer - until he shouldered arms to Duffy on 96, and discovered his off-pole lying on the turf.
The pair had taken their side to 151 for two. Even at 152 for two with the quick loss of Michael Bracewell in the following over, it was a solid enough start.
Tom Blundell then set to work on a positive half century and, at 82 off 84 balls, was looking likely to get to triple figures in good time. But when he was trapped by Duffy, it was arguably the Volts captain's key wicket - setting the dramatic tailspin in motion, en route to Duffy's eighth bag.
The Volts needed a sound start to their second dig on a testing surface, and they didn't get it. Hamish Rutherford was lost at 29 for one, while fellow opener Cam Hawkins was forced to retire (not out) on eight.
Debutant Dale Phillips then fell cheaply again, bringing Neil Broom and Nick Kelly together at 37 for two.
It had been an interesting day for Kelly who earned himself a line in next year's Almanack with a spell of 0.0-0-12-0 after delivering two high full tosses. However, after the over was finished by Hamish Rutherford, captain Duffy took the new ball and inflicted the damage, taking a crucial 6-17 in the space of just 26 balls.
Bonus points (completed): Firebirds 4 bowling, Volts 0 batting, Firebirds 4 batting, Volts 4 bowling.
Close of play: Otago Volts 199 all out (63.2 overs); Wellington Firebirds 94/1 first innings
By stumps, the Firebirds were already taking their turn at bat and in sight of their first 100 runs going up on the famous scoreboard, having bundled out the Volts for 199 - just a single shy of registering what would have been the Volts' first batting bonus point.
Fourth change Logan van Beek netted the best figures of the day with 4-43 after Hamish Bennett, Ollie Newton and young quick Ben Sears put the early heat on.
Four down by lunch, the Volts were all out by tea with Mitch Renwick (42) looking promising for an hour and a half and reaching the top score of 42 before being undone by a sharp Rachin Ravindra grab, off a rising van Beek delivery.
Four Volts were making their debut for the side, but none likely enjoyed the occasion with Dale Phillips (first-class debut) making an early exit, Dean Foxcroft bounced out on 18, Nick Kelly gutsing it out for 102 minutes for his 37 and Travis Muller providing a late burl of 16 before being yorked by a spinner one short of a precious point.
Volts captain Jacob Duffy struck back before stumps with the wicket of opener Fraser Colson, but at 94/1, and with Rachin Ravindra unbeaten on 45, the Firebirds will head into day two in a useful position. Entry to all Plunket Shield cricket is free admission.