- Firebirds batsman Fletcher equals centuries record -
A bonus point victory has kept the Wellington Firebirds a nose in front in this season's heated race for Ford Trophy Finals qualification.
Having been deadlocked on points heading into today's seventh of 10 rounds, exciting wins for both the Firebirds and Otago Volts today in Lincoln keeps both teams well placed to qualify — but a dramatic collapse from the Firebirds' opponents the Central Stags propelled the capital cricketers one point clear. Only the top spot will secure direct entry to a home Ford Trophy Grand Final.
Despite a fightback from Ben Wheeler (56) and Ryan McCone (a maiden 52) who smashed apart the old Central Stags eighth-wicket partnership record of 87* by piling on 105 runs, the Stags always had a tough ask trying to recover from a dire position of 87 for seven.
They were chasing the Firebirds' 266 for eight, a tally set up by a record-equalling century by new batting sensation Andrew Fletcher (100 off 123 balls).
Opening batsman Fletcher today equalled the Firebirds' record for most List A (domestic one-day) centuries in a season, in his debut summer in the gold and black kit.
The only other batsman to have achieved the feat for the Firebirds is former opener Michael Papps, who retired at the end of last season after a marathon career. In his 2012/13 List A season, Papps had scored 609 runs from just nine matches, while Fletcher in his rookie season is tearing ahead in the 2018/19 batting stakes with 475 runs already from his seven matches, at a superb average of79.16 and healthy strike rate of 77.48.
His captain Hamish Bennett (3-38 today) is meanwhile well out in front as the country's leading wicket-taker with 18, four more than both Volts' co-captain Jacob Duffy and fellow Volts paceman Matt Bacon.
The Stags handed over the bonus point when they were dismissed for a fighting 208 inside 44 overs, the Firebirds claiming victory by 58 runs but, more significantly, doing so at a net run rate more than 1.25 times that of the Stags for the invaluable extra point.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the hedge on a sunny and windy day in rural Canterbury, the Otago Volts were engaged in a far closer battle with the Auckland Aces, getting up for a three-wicket win on Bert Sutcliffe Oval with just one over to spare.
In a big turnaround from last season, the re-energised Volts have now won four matches on the trot, a new record in one season for the team in the one-day format and opening up an 8-point gap over third-ranked Northern Districts whom they will meet on Lincoln No.3 in the next round this Friday
No team is yet out the running — however, the race for the third qualifiers' spot is now looking considerably tighter, Canterbury devastated to have lost to Northern Districts today despite both young opener Jack Boyle and experienced first drop Stephen Murdoch scoring centuries together at Hagley Oval.
The pair had carved out a new second wicket record for Canterbury of exactly 200, beating the mark of 189 set by former BLACKCAPS Blair Hartland and Llorne Howell in Timaru back in 1993/94, 22-year-old Boyle (126 off 146) achieving his maiden List A century to go with the maiden Plunket Shield (first-class) century he scored against the very same opposition just last month.
However, a concerted team effort from ND saw the visitors chase down Canterbury's solid 307 for four with 10 balls to spare, led at the top by captain Dean Brownlie's 73. The victory was ND's highest successful Ford Trophy chase against Canterbury, beating a mark that had been set in the 2004/05 season, with Joe Carter and wicketkeeper-batsman Peter Bocock sharing a new seventh-wicket record between the two teams.
The loss leaves Canterbury in last spot on the table, on nine points with three matches to go but still in contention with Northern Districts (14 points), the Auckland Aces (12) and the Central Stags (11) all set to squabble over qualification. A maximum of 15 points is available to each team from the final three rounds.
ROUND EIGHT | 11am FRIDAY 16 NOVEMBER
Canterbury v Wellington Firebirds at Hagley Oval, Christchurch
Central Stags v Auckland Aces at Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln
Otago Volts v Northern Districts at Lincoln No. 3, Lincoln