PHOTOSPORT

Unbeaten Wellington Firebirds are Plunket Shield champions

The unbeaten Wellington Firebirds have been crowned as the 2023/24 national first-class champions after wet weather on the final day in Hamilton prevented any further play, the big match with Northern Districts ending in a draw.

The Firebirds had headed into the last game with a small lead at the top of the table, and maintained a buffer after first innings points calculations in the last round – extending the long-running Northern Districts title drought in this format by at least another 12 months.

Otago Volt Dale Phillips finishes as the season's top run-scorer nationally after two centuries in his last two matches, with 686 runs at an average of 49.00.

Phillips nudged ahead of Wellington Firebirds top order man Gareth Severin (657 at 46.93 in his first fully contracted season), both men with two hundreds and five half tons from their Plunket Shield summer.

Central Stags captain Greg Hay, who capped off his first-class record with the third highest score of his long career (179) in one of the Stags' biggest ever first-class team totals; setting up an innings victory against the Otago Volts in Napier this afternoon, signed off as the season's third highest run-scorer, with 643 runs at 49.46, including two centuries and three half centuries.

The result saw the Stags overtake Canterbury for third place, finishing just one point ahead on the table.

Earlier today, Stags gloveman Dane Cleaver ticked off one more record for the Stags, breaking Kruger van Wyk's mark for most wicketkeeping dismissals in a single Plunket Shield season – a competition now with just eight rounds per season, rather than 10 as it was during van Wyk's career.

Cleaver finished with 41 dismissals, helping teammate Liam Dudding along the way to a career-best five-wicket bag on the final afternoon (5/32, among Dudding's eight wickets for the match) as the Stags sealed their summer with victory by an innings and 40 runs at McLean Park.

The leading wicket-taker for the season is NZC men's Domestic player of the season Nathan Smith, the Firebirds allrounder finishing with 33 wickets from seven matches, including two bags, at a lean 17.18 average.

Smith headed off Otago Volt Jacob Duffy (31 wickets from eight games at 24.41) and Northern Districts' Scott Kuggeleijn (30 wickets from just six games at 17.1).

FINAL POINTS TABLE

94 Wellington Firebirds (4 wins)
91 Northern Districts (4 wins)
85 Central Stags (3 wins)
84 Canterbury (3 wins)
54 Otago Volts (1 win)
51 Auckland Aces (1 win)

RECENT CHAMPIONS

2023/24  Wellington Firebirds

2022/23  Central Stags
2021/22  Auckland Aces
2020/21  Canterbury
2019/20  Wellington Firebirds
2018/19  Central Stags
2017/18  Central Stags
2016/17  Canterbury
2015/16  Auckland Aces
2014/15  Canterbury 
2013/14  Canterbury
2012/13  Central Stags
2011/12  Northern Districts
2010/11  Canterbury 
2009/10  Northern Districts

Tom Blundell is presented with the Shield by Dave Hoskin, who bowled the first ball for Northern Districts when the hosts first joined the competition | PHOTOSPORT


 

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