Round 4 Ford Trophy: Wellington Firebirds 255/8 (Pollard 55, Papps 35, Murdoch 61, Tugaga 32; Milne 10-2-46-3, Worker 3-31 off 7) lost to the Devon Hotel Central Stags 259/4 in 44.1 overs (How 53, Smith 75, Young 97 not out; Arnel 10-1-38-4) by six wickets at Saxton Oval, Nelson.
Defending champions the Wellington Firebirds continued a disastrous start to the defence of their Ford Trophy title with their fourth straight loss, going down to the Devon Hotel Central Stags at a scorching Saxton Oval in Nelson by six wickets.
Once again, the Stags’ confident top order led from the front, opener Jamie How crunching out a half-century off just 23 balls — and managing to look thoroughly relaxed in the process — before being bowled by Brent Arnel.
Ironically it was the only defensive stroke of How's innings. Arnel put up a good fight throughout, going on to 4-38 for the day in an ultimately fruitless cause.
Ben Smith (75 off 87) and Will Young (an unbeaten 97) then steadily built the winning partnership, each making career bests as they brought up a 100-run stand off 122 balls. Young thumped a straight six off Alecz Day to lodge his half-century, however, four leg byes in what proved to be the final over meant that he agonisingly ran out of balls with which to post what would have been a maiden List A and Ford Trophy ton for the young number four.
The Stags were chasing the Firebirds’ total of 255/8 — a target that had been bolstered by a useful Ili Tugaga cameo of 32 off 21 at the death, during which he had been dropped by a sorely annoyed George Worker on the boundary. On a deck that held back a little despite blistering 27 degree sunshine, the Firebirds had chosen to bat first and a confident start from Pollard and Papps saw the Firebirds put 100 on the board in the 21st over. However, they had been put under mounting pressure by the 30 over mark and then struggled until the late burst.
Quick Adam Milne continued his impressive wicket-taking run in the Ford Trophy, in what was likely to be his last appearance for the Stags before rejoining the BLACKCAPS. He blew through the middle order to remove two key wickets in James Franklin and Luke Ronchi, for little damage and figures of 3-46.
Andy Mathieson had meanwhile picked up the significant wicket of Grant Elliott after the blast of pace, and cheaply. But the star package of the Stags’ bowling was Worker.
Not content with having scored a truckload of runs in the previous three rounds (for once he missed out in this round), Worker bowled well for his 3-31 off seven — which included stopping Pollard on 55 and having Stephen Murdoch stumped on 61, both of whom had looked well set.
Their wickets set the skittles in motion and, well beaten, it proved a miserable way for the Firebirds to mark both veteran spinner Luke Woodcock’s 100th List A match and Dane Hutchinson’s Ford Trophy debut, the paceman having replaced the injured Mark Gillespie in the Firebirds squad. The win lifted the Stags to second place on the Ford Trophy points table, behind the Aces.