Wellington Firebirds v Auckland Aces at Basin Reserve, Wellington, 23-26 October 2017
Result — Wellington Firebirds won by an innings and 205 runs
Points — Wellington Firebirds 20, Auckland Aces 0
After the shock-horror of the first session of their season, an innings loss was almost inevitable for the Auckland Aces, and the Wellington Firebirds ensured they completed those formalities with a day to spare. Michael Papps, triple century hero for the Firebirds, had almost scored more runs than both Aces innings put together.
The Aces had begun the day at 73 for one facing Mission Impossible to save the match unless someone emulated Papps’s ability to stand his ground and wear out the attack for a couple of days.
BLACKCAPS opener Jeet Raval could at least get in some valuable early season time in the middle, anchoring the morning session despite losing two more partners. His half century, the first in the lop-sided match for his team, arrived off 145 balls, and he would top-score for the visitors with a doughty 73.
Mark Chapman’s 61 was the only other innings of note against a Firebirds attack that was equally determined to wrap it up early. Once Logan van Beek had finally claimed Raval, and Hamish Bennett had got the better of Chapman in his brace; Iain McPeake tore in for a quick 3-51 from his 17 overs and Luke Woodcock spun out the last of the order for the celebrations of a special match to properly begin.
The Aces now head across Cook Strait to Nelson to play the Central Stags away next week in round two, while the Firebirds remain at the Basin for what should be a cracking encounter with the strong Otago Volts.
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First innings batting bonus points, Aces 0, Firebirds 4 (maximum achieved)
First innings bowling bonus points, Firebirds 4 (maximum achieved); Aces 0 (completed)
The Wellington Firebirds' team song has a line about "Super Michael Pappsy". They may have to think up an even bigger superlative after today. On just the second day of the 2017/18 season, Michael Papps and Luke Woodcock tore up some of the biggest pages in New Zealand’s first-class domestic record books.
- Veteran opener Michael Papps’s unbeaten 316 is his highest first-class score. His previous best in his 20-year career was an unbeaten 206
- 316 not out is the all-time sixth-highest first-class score by any New Zealander (Bert Sutcliffe's 385 for Otago v Canterbury in 1952/53 is the record)
- His knock is the new highest first-class score by any Wellington batsman, having beaten John Reid's famously audacious 296 scored at the Basin in 1963
- Reid’s contemporary Bert Sutcliffe (7) is the only New Zealand player to have batted in more 200-run first-wicket stands than Michael Papps (6) — thank you to Francis Payne for this statistic
- When Papps and opening partner Luke Woodcock reached 300 for none, it was only the ninth 300-stand in New Zealand’s first-class domestic history (and current Wellington Firebirds coach Bruce Edgar shared in two of them!)
- Papps and Woodcock weren’t finished: they extended their opening stand to 432 before Woodcock was dismissed on 151, Woodcock’s 10th first-class century
- 432 becomes the new record partnership in Plunket Shield history, overtaking the 428 set by Central Stags openers Jamie How and Peter Ingram in 2009/10, which was also set at the Basin Reserve
- The stand is also the highest opening partnership in all New Zealand first-class history
- Clearly, it’s also a new Wellington Firebirds record for the first wicket and against all teams — the previous best first-class domestic stand for Wellington having been 346 by Graham Burnett and Ross Verry against Northern Districts in Hamilton in 1991/92
- The Wellington Firebirds declared at 553/3, a first innings lead of 491 after having dismissed the Auckland Aces for 62 inside the first session of day one!
By stumps on another extraordinary day at the Basin, the Auckland Aces were 73/1 in their second innings, in the battle of their life to avoid an innings defeat. For the second time in the match, new captain Michael Guptill-Bunce (4) was trapped cheaply by debutant Ollie Newton, Jeet Raval (39*) and Robbie O'Donnell (24*) having put on 65 for the second wicket by close of play.
First innings batting bonus points, Aces 0, Firebirds 1 (in progress)
First innings bowling bonus points, Firebirds 4 (maximum achieved); Aces 0 (in progress)
On their beloved home turf, the Wellington Firebirds stepped across the rope with three of the most experienced players in New Zealand first-class cricket.
Jeetan Patel, notching up his 250th first-class appearance, was entering his 19th New Zealand season, off the back of another standout County season for Warwickshire. Michael Papps was clocking in for season number 20 and it was opening partner Luke Woodcock’s 17th, and a record-equalling 127th first-class cap for one New Zealand team.
And yet, who should steal the show — for the time being — but the bloke on first-class debut.
Tossed the ball for the second over of the morning by new Firebirds skipper Michael Bracewell, right-armer Ollie Newton delivered a wicket with his first ball, trapping Auckland Aces skipper Michael Guptill-Bunce for a golden duck to become only the seventh player in New Zealand’s long first-class history to achieve such a sensational start to his career.
But Newton wasn’t done yet. After dotting down the next delivery, Robbie O’Donnell chopped on, then Mark Chapman was caught in the slips off his third and fourth deliveries, before rounding the off the carnage with another couple of dots for a tidy 3/0 and triple wicket maiden off his debut over of Plunket Shield.
Statistician Francis Payne would soon report that it was the best first-class debut over since Ralph Phillips took a hat-trick in his first over for South Africa’s Border against Eastern Province in 1939/40.
Clubmates Jerry Raval and Michael Barry now brought together, the excitement of a new season continued on its now nightmarish bent for the Aces as Hamish Bennett swooped in for a double wicket maiden of his own in the fifth over, Raval watching on stunned from the other end.
At 11 for five, dark talk of the Aces’ lowest ever first-class total — 13 against Canterbury, way back in the 1870s — was summoned by stats nuffies around the country. Then Raval fell: 12/6. Ben Horne: 12/7, and four wickets for 29-year-old Newton, whose previous domestic career amounted to just one Twenty20 match.
Five batsmen had walked back to the newly renovated Vance Stand with no runs by their name, and, at eight down, there was even a point where no Auckland batsman had yet cracked double figures. However, Tarun Nethula would at least rescue his team from statistical infamy. His 23, followed by tailender Raja Sandhu’s 11, would lift the Aces to 62 all out in 23 action-packed overs in the first session of the season.
Newton’s 4-26 came off just eight overs and Bennett’s 3-2 off five was equally dramatic, in conditions that were blustery enough to blow the umpire’s hat off.
So it was that the Firebirds found themselves batting before lunch despite having won the toss, yet Papps and Woodcock made a safe start against the fiery pairing of Lockie Ferguson and Firebird-turned-Ace Matt McEwan (on Auckland debut).
From 17 without loss at the break, the pair rubbed a kilo of salt into the Aces’ wounds by taking command in the middle session, in which no wicket would fall. Papps had reached 85 by tea, the aggressor of the pair supported by Woodcock’s 29*.
In the last session the most experienced run-maker in New Zealand cricket raised his bat for his 32nd first-class century, and 12th for the Firebirds, off 155 balls.
The milestone saw Papps launch into a barrage of boundaries, smashing four of them off Matt McEwan in one over. Ferguson pinged away at the other end, but neither bowler could prevent Woodcock reaching his half century, and the partnership kept on chugging forward as Papps crunched another boundary to raise the Firebirds’ 200, and the duo’s 200-stand, for no loss.
By stumps, masterful Papps was still unbeaten on 163, lieutenant Woodcock still with him on 64 and the Firebirds’ 246 without loss making a scoreboard mockery of the Aces’ first-up 62.