Firebirds captain Nick Kelly | PHOTOSPORT

Northern and Firebirds trade tons in hard fought battle

ROUND SEVEN

WELLINGTON FIREBIRDS beat NORTHERN DISTRICTS by 45 runs

6 February 2024

Celloa Basin Reserve, Wellington

Points: Firebirds 4, ND 0

SCORECARD

SELECTED MILESTONES

  • Jesse Tashkoff List A Debut
  • Callum McLachlan maiden List A half century
  • Nick Kelly: 4th List A 100 (1st for Wellington Firebirds)
  • Kristian career best List A figures 5/67
  • Henry Cooper: 3rd List A 100

PHOTOSPORT

From the wrong end of the ladder, the Wellington Firebirds kept their Ford Trophy prospects alive by taking a hard-fought win off leaders Northern Districts.

It was an important win in an interesting round where all three results on Waitangi Day served to tighten up the table, with just three rounds to go to ink in Finals spots.

ND was missing the services of key allrounder Scott Kuggeleijn who was away playing in Dubai, and the Firebirds seized their opportunity.

Home captain Nick Kelly led the way for Wellington by scoring his first one-day century in the yellow shirt, against his former team. He previously had two hundreds for ND and one for the Otago Volts among his 2K career runs, and reached 104 on this occasion after having decided to bat first at the Basin.

The sun was shining and the wind was blowing, Kelly able to score his runs at a good clip and forming an 84-run third wicket stand with Nick Greenwood (62 off 77) that took his team through to the 31-over mark.

Then he cashed in with an invaluable century stand with Callum McLachlan for the next wicket.

McLachlan produced his best knock yet in this format, taking time to get established and turning over the strike before the pair freed their arms.

The runs were flowing freely until the 46th over, frustrating ND who were sweating for wickets.

Suddenly, McLachlan went to sweep Tim Pringle but the spinner was too quick for him and shattered his stumps at 276/4.

That triggered a late flurry for the ND attack, Kristian Clarke picking up three wickets at the death to seal a career best bag of 5/67 off his 10, and Pete Drysdale chiming in to get Jesse Tashkoff caught cheaply on List A debut.

Despite his erratic first over, Logan van Beek then made a great start by pulling off yet another stunner of a reflex catch this season: hard-hitter Katene Clarke slamming the ball straight back at him, with the lowish grab undoubtedly sparing van Beek a very painful interlude.

Adam Milne meanwhile opened with a maiden, asserting his pace and authority.

However, from 10/1, the hosts were subjected to an audacious fightback, Tim Seifert blasting a couple of early sixes off van Beek en route to a fast 54 and as he powered an 82-run stand for the second wicket with Henry Cooper.

Ben Sears had him caught in the 16th after a good first over from Tashkoff that conceded only three singles, and Jeet Raval joined Cooper to take his side past the 100-mark in the 18th.

It was a good battle between bat and ball as the Firebirds strove to break their 58-run stand, Milne and van Beek coming back to have a crack before van Beek stopped Raval on 19, Tashkoff getting under the catch in the deep.

Joe Carter was the next big obstacle for the Firebirds as he added 36 with Cooper for the fourth, but Peter Younghusband got the better of him on 15 with a top edge. ND was now 186/4 in the 34th over, needing another 145 runs at almost nine an over. Anchorman Cooper was still there, but the pressure was on to lift the scoring rate.

Younghusband soon stopped Brett Hampton cheaply as well: another dangerman gone. New man Drysdale and Cooper recognised the urgency, and began to whack the pacemen over the rope.

Milne didn't like that, and responded by trapping Drysdale with a missile-like yorker. Kristian Clarke then heaved at Sears, only for a thick edge to fly up: 240/7.

The Firebirds were into the tail now and, despite Tim Pringle nonchalantly pulling a six to bring up the ND 250, the hosts were in control.

Cooper had brought up his century a few overs earlier, with his six off Milne. He'd got there off 113 balls, with a dozen boundaries and two sixes in all, yet it always felt like the hosts were answering back, with rafts of dot balls insterspersed.

Cooper would be the last to fall, on the last ball of the penultimate over. Nathan Smith (3/57) had just proven too good for Matt Fisher in a chase that was now almost beyond ND's reach.

Smith stopped it from dragging on by ending the first drop's epic three and a half hour innings on 121. ND had been dismissed for 285 with an over to spare.

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