Firebirds captain Tom Blundell with a captain's ton in a big game | PHOTOSPORT

All eyes on Hamilton on penultimate day


Northern Districts is out to break a drought — but not this kind of drought.

After skittish weather led to a lengthy delay on day two of the Plunket Shield decider in Hamilton, there will be a few nervous glances at weather forecasts for the final two days of the match and season.

Competition leader the Wellington Firebirds head into today’s penultimate day still with their nose in front on the points table.

Logan van Beek | PHOTOSPORT

So far, both teams have taken four of the eight first-innings bonus points — with the ND first innings still in progress.

At 152/4 after 54 overs, trailing by 171, ND is in theory able to collect a further four points from batting; the Firebirds a further three should they take another five wickets before the end of 110 overs.

Henry Cooper | PHOTOSPORT

Northern’s top four batters are already all back in the hutch.

Fresh off his career best eight-for in the previous round, Firebirds spinner and BLACKCAP Michael Bracewell had both captain Jeet Raval (10) and first drop Bharat Popli (60) caught in the slips, sitting on figures of 2/60 overnight.


Logan van Beek had accounted for opener Henry Cooper (a quick 44) and leg-spinner Peter Younghusband had Joe Carter caught in slips by van Beek for 25.

Earlier on the second day, an entertaining last-wicket stand between Firebirds captain Tom Blundell (103 off 157 balls) and last man Ben Sears (13 not out) added 77 valuable runs in the Firebirds’ first innings tally of 323.


Blundell showed all his expansive flair with nine boundaries and four sixes on the weather-truncated second day’s play.

With newly minted BLACKCAP Sears — better known for blasting out wickets than blocking yorkers, providing two hours of support, it was enough to help Blundell grab a second and third batting bonus point for his team.


Tim Seifert (7 not out) and nightwatchman Joe Walker (one not out) will resume the Northern reply at Seddon Park.

Should weather play a hand in the outcome of this match and the destination of the coveted Plunket Shield over the next two days, a draw could see Northern claim the title, if points were equal.

The Firebirds now require one more wicket before the end of 110 overs to make sure they stay ahead on the table, should there be no outright result.


While the remaining four teams headed into this final round out of the running for the 2023/24 first-class title, there’s still plenty of motivation to finish as high on the table as possible — with rankings playing a part in who will get to play who twice next summer, in the uneven eight-round draw.

Central Stags captain and veteran Greg Hay batted throughout the second day’s play at Napier’s McLean Park yesterday to reach his 18th first-class century, the Stags set to resume with a 52-run lead over the Volts at 361/5, Hay unbeaten on 137*.

A captain's knock from Greg Hay | MBUTCHER

The 39-year-old now has more first-class hundreds for his team than anyone other than prolific alumnus Mathew Sinclair (27), having gone past Peter Ingram (17).

Earlier, BLACKCAP Will Young had reached 90, before being trapped by Travis Muller, while the Volts' Dale Phillips and first innings centurion Dale Phillips has been replaced by Jake Gibson as a concussion substitute and will take no further part in the game.


In Auckland, right-arm paceman Jordan Sussex continued to script a remarkable late-blooming tale as the 30-year-old physiotherapist took one of the best hauls in his team’s lengthy history.

In the previous round, it was Sussex — who was playing in just his second match, after two years in the cold — who stunned the Stags on the final day in Napier with a match-winning maiden bag of 6/46.

Yesterday, he routed Canterbury with brand a new career best of 8/71, which makes the list of top 10 bowling hauls in all first-class cricket for Auckland since the team's first-class playing record began in 1873/74.

The fast-moving game sees the Aces heading into the third day at Eden Park’s Kennards Hire Community Oval at 143/2 in their second innings, leading overall by 117 runs, with eight wickets in hand.

Canterbury was earlier dismissed for 242, another 10th wicket partnership providing important runs as Mitch Hay (an unbeaten 54*) and Sean Davey (53) added a fighting 95 together.



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