Canterbury v Otago Volts at Hagley Oval, Christchurch, 23-26 October 2017
Result: Otago Volts won by seven wickets
Points: Otago Volts 17, Canterbury 4
The weather held in Christchurch long enough for the Volts to wrap up victory in the morning session to get their Plunket Shield campaign off to a positive start.
Neil Broom fell just two short of a half century when he was caught and bowled by Tim Johnston but by then the Volts were just one stroke away from a well executed victory.
On ‘moving day” in the midst of an intriguing contest, it was visitors the Otago Volts who put the foot down. By the close of the day’s play they required just 47 further runs for victory, weather on day four the only curve ball that could surely stop them from taking a first-up win in the 2017/18 Plunket Shield.
Canterbury had set their southern rivals a target of 239. It was never enough, even on the slowish surface, once experienced openers Brad Wilson (63) and aggressive Hamish Rutherford (90) settled in for a 162-run stand for the first wicket, picking off the tension with each run. Both would fall to Canterbury debutant Blake Coburn, who now has five for the match, but their job was all but done.
Earlier in the day, Canterbury had been looking to build on their overnight 156/4, but an early breakthrough effected thanks to a superb, side-on run out from Neil Broom at point was exactly what Canterbury did not need.
Canterbury's loan player, allrounder Brett Hampton, proved a boon with the bat as he smashed three sixes and six fours to get to 60, his highest first-class score; but his dismissal triggered a double strike, Mark Craig swooping in for Leo Carter, the second victim in what would become an impressive comeback haul of 4-87 for the rated spinner.
Neil Wagner was never far away from the action as he returned 3-72, closing down the innings at 299 in 83.1 overs.
The Volts were poised at 192 for two at stumps.
First innings batting bonus points, Canterbury 0, Otago Volts 1
First innings bowling bonus points, Otago Volts 4 (maximum achieved), Canterbury 4 (maximum achieved)
The Southern rivalry continued to simmer at Hagley with the Volts beginning day two looking for runs and Canterbury bowlers keen to continue their useful early in-roads of the night before, with Neil Wagner in as nightwatchman.
It would be the hosts who would walk off at the end of the day feeling more satisfied, having dismissed the Volts for 216.
The Volts attack had had its moments, but the batting had folded just when it needed to kick on, from 63/3 overnight. Will Williams picked up the important wicket of opener Brad Wilson in uncommon circumstances, having all but abandoned his appeal in resignation before umpire Billy Bowden belatedly raised the finger for a caught behind after all.
It was a key dismissal, for Wilson's patient 58 would prove the best of the Volts' scorecard. Jimmy Neesham reached 38 while Mark Craig would fall just short of a half century, time enough to clock up his 1000th first-class run in his valuable role down the order.
For Canterbury, Blake Coburn finished with 3-71 and young Fraser Sheat an impressive 2-16 on debut.
With a lead of just 61, the Volts needed a big second innings effort with the ball to make sure of containing Canterbury, but the opening batsmen overcame the initial target without loss. Their wickets fell either side of the tea break, Canterbury 156 for four at day's end for a lead of 95 runs in their second innings so far. Cameron Fletcher (39*) and Leo Carter (24*) are both set in the middle order and can draw on their experience as opening batsmen on day three, Fletcher also having ticked off his first-class run in an eventful day's cricket.
First innings batting bonus points, Canterbury 0, Otago Volts in progress
First innings bowling bonus points, Otago Volts 4 (maximum achieved), Canterbury 1 (in progress)
On paper it looked for all the world like a mismatch. Otago Volts at full strength, spinner Mark Craig (below) back raring to go and joined by fellow current or erstwhile BLACKCAPS Neil Wagner, Neil Broom, Hamish Rutherford, Jimmy Neesham — all under the fresh helmsmanship of experienced former Aces captain Rob Nicol.
Canterbury, meanwhile, had lost an unpalatable slew of key players to injury or concussion in the season build-up: captain Andrew Ellis, Kyle Jamieson, Henry Shipley, Ed Nuttall, Ken McClure all out and Logan van Beek having gone to the Firebirds and Peter Fulton retired, BLACKCAPS away and Todd Astle injured to boot. Cole McConchie was handed the captain’s armband and the competitive cupboard was so threadbare that coach Gary Stead sent an SOS to ND for a loan player.
So it was that ND allrounder Brett Hampton was among the four players on Canterbury debut, alongside relative unknowns Fraser Sheat and Blake Coburn, and a first Canterbury cap also for ex-Firebirds batsman Michael Pollard.
Wagner wasted little time making the early breakthrough even after McConchie won the toss, while 23-year-old Jacob Duffy (3-24) entered the match and season sitting on 99 first-class wickets. Looking to have refound his old magic, Duffy’s 100th arrived courtesy of Canterbury’s other opener, Jack Boyle, caught behind on 27.
By lunch, the Volts were on top, their hosts 57/4.
Duffy’s 100th wicket milestone included matches for New Zealand A; now on the same day he would tick off his 100th wicket for the Otago Volts alone with what proved the crucial wicket of Pollard (54), who shouldered arms only to watch the ball curve into his stumps.
The ex-Firebird had been anchoring at first drop as the middle order fell in tatters around him. He punched a six off Mark Craig, before Duffy finally brought him to a halt at 117 for six, ending a promising stand with Hampton (25).
By tea, Canterbury was clinging on at 155 for eight, a lively injection of brisk runs from Tim Johnston halted by Wagner’s arm: run out. The innings would last a further seven balls, the wickets shared as Mark Craig and Michael Rae swept in to stop Canterbury on 155 in 68.1 overs.
The last session would prove no gentler, but the Volts were now on the receiving end.
Debutants young Fraser Sheat — last season’s First XI Cup player of the tournament — and Blake Coburn both earned their maiden wickets, Sheat running in hard and picking up his first when Hamish Rutherford chopped him on, then whooping in delight as Pollard grabbed a scorching one-hander at first slip to remove Rob Nicol first ball.
Next it was Coburn’s turn, flummoxing Neil Broom on 13 to pick up the BLACKCAP as his maiden scalp, leg before.
The Volts were 63 for three at stumps, Canterbury holding a tenuous 93-run lead in a match proving full of surprises.