WELLINGTON FIREBIRDS v CANTERBURY
Basin Reserve, Wellington
24 October 2018
RESULT: Wellington Firebirds won by seven wickets
New Wellington Firebird Andrew Fletcher made a dream start to his one-day career with a maiden and unbeaten Ford Trophy century underpinning a sweetly timed win at his iconic new home ground.
Fletcher was just one of a slew of rookies in the new season opener with Jakob Bhula, Lauchie Johns and Ben Sears also making their Ford Trophy debuts and Theo van Woerkem pulling on the red jersey for Canterbury for the first time in this format. Likewise, Jimmy Neesham made his first appearance in gold and black.
Although the Basin chase went to the 48th over, ultimately the seven-wicket, first-up victory was a big comfort for the fresh-look Firebirds — who’d been sent in by Canterbury captain Cole McConchie.
Set a target of 287, opening batsman Fletcher would come back in to his teammates' applause and an ovation with a superb 132 not out, having outfoxed the Canterbury attack with his 15 boundaries and a six.
It was a day of impressive milestones for the capital as wicketkeeper Lauchie Johns set a new New Zealand List A record of seven catches in an innings, just one short of the world record.
So it was history, as well as terrific free entertainment, as Fletcher, 25, combined with fellow opener Malcolm Nofal (50) and then Devon Conway (58) as the Firebirds’ confidence grew with every hour on a delightful afternoon for locals at the Basin Reserve.
Earlier, Ollie Newton and captain Hamish Bennett each claimed three-fa’s for the Firebirds to keep the Canterbury innings under control, Bennett stopping McConchie on 90 in the 41st over.
McConchie had slathered on 125 for the fourth wicket alongside BLACKCAP Henry Nicholls (62) to rebuild Canterbury's innings after they had got off to a rocky start at 33 for three.
Tom Latham — a big early wicket as he was caught off Bennett for just two — and seasoned Andrew Ellis, playing his first match of the season after deciding to concentrate on white-ball this summer, were big, cheap breakthroughs, but some late order contributions from Cameron Fletcher (33), Henry Shipley (28) and Matt Henry (23) got Canterbury up to post 286 in just under 49 overs.
Fletcher made sure it was never enough and the Firebirds were off to a flyer.
They head to Eden Park Outer Oval for a big match against fellow first-round winners and defending champions the Auckland Aces on Sunday (entry by gold coin donation) while Canterbury stays on the road, travelling to New Plymouth to take on early leaders the Central Stags at Pukekura Park with tickets at the gate from 10am, weather permitting.