OTAGO VOLTS v WELLINGTON FIREBIRDS
University of Otago Oval
10 November 2018
Result: Otago Volts won by seven runs
Clearly revitalised Jimmy Neesham’s form continued at his former home ground in Dunedin, but his maiden Ford Trophy hundred — for the Wellington Firebirds, would go in vain against his old teammates the Otago Volts in a Dunner stunner.
Genuine allrounder Neesham has now scored three half centuries and one century from his first six List A appearances for the capital, but the Volts, too, are starting to rediscover their best touch.
Coming out on top in a thrilling finish in the top-of-the-table clash with leaders the Firebirds, the Volts have now emulated the Birds with four wins from six matches, and are equal on points — the Volts occupying second spot only by dint of a slightly lower net run rate.
It’s been an exciting turnaround for a team that struggled through a forgettable 2017/18 in all formats and they did it from a sticky situation in difficult conditions.
And, they also did it without co-captain Mark Craig who was once again forced to sit out the action with a back problem, Jacob Duffy again taking the coin and opting to bat first in the Volts’ third home game on the trot.
His side rustled up 218, and even that smallish total had looked some way off after the Firebirds had had them at 112 for six.
Neil Broom’s quite patient 45 at first drop was the only significant dent in the scorebook from the top six, but the Volts had a sting in their tail.
After having battled through to the 33rd over, Broom would become the second of nippy Ollie Newton’s maiden five-wicket bag — a tidy haul of 5-46 clinched with a ball to spare as the final wicket fell in the last over, and he was well backed up by his captain who again kept the batsmen on their toes.
However, by then the Volts had fought back, Michael Rippon (42 off 62) and young Josh Finnie (52 off 48 at eight, with a barrage of sixes) providing what would prove vital late-order runs, both making the most of a second life after having been dropped.
The trouble for the Firebirds was that, despite Neesham’s century effort (off 105 balls, including eight boundaries and five sixes), only one other batsman made it to double figures on a day that had all pace bowlers itching to take the ball.
Neesham combined with another Volt-turned-Firebird, Michael Bracewell, in a 92-run stand for the fourth wicket, but after Bracewell’s patient 45 in support, the next highest score was 16 and that was from Mr Extras.
Duffy (above; PHOTOSPORT) would emulate Ritchie’s feat by claiming a five-for of his own, a superb haul of 10-1-35-5 being his second bag in List A cricket and accounting for most of the top wickets.
But it was the one wicket from Nathan Smith that would bring the biggest sigh of relief, mixed with copious amounts of elation, as he trapped big Iain McPeake plumb just as the Firebirds were closing in on their target.
With 3.4 overs remaining, they were left kicking themselves, but when Neesham had departed to a lofted and brilliantly taken catch to Hamish Rutherford off Matt Bacon in the 46th, the tail had been left exposed, the hosts seizing their late chance and winning by just seven runs.
Both teams now head to Christchurch and Lincoln were all teams converge for the next three rounds, all matches in the tightly contested Ford Trophy are free entry.