Wizards win Basin battle

They cut it fine, but the Canterbury Wizards were delighted to walk off the Basin having defeated the HELL Wellington Firebirds by 20 runs.

It was a team effort with wickets shared by the bowlers, with Todd Astle. Ryan McCone and Ronnie Hira picking up three apiece as they chipped away at some fighting resistance from the Firebirds that stretched into last session and had the match teetering on a knife-edge throughout.

Following the Wizards' generous declaration the previous evening, the Firebirds' task had become more difficult by lunch, three wickets gone - including the valuable prize of Jesse Ryder, who had been bowled by Astle on 31, and century-maker from the first innings, Stephen Murdoch, bowled by Findlay for just two.

With a further 236 runs still to find and two full sessions there was hope, however, with Michael Papps and Grant Elliott having just raised their 50 partnership and Papps looking solid on 63. But the pendulum swung when, shortly after the break, Papps was adjudged lbw, the score now a less comfortable 150/4. It was left to Elliott to plough on in a salvage job, and although he quickly lost new partner Luke Woodcock, he battled to a hand of 91 in a gritty100-run partnership with Harry Boam (who produced his highest first class knock of 66) before he became Astle's third victim.

The Firebirds weren't spent, however: Mark Gillespie cracked a late-order 63 off just 51 balls to keep the Wellingtonians within sight of the finish line. The absorbing battle ended summarily, however, when he was bowled by McCone.


Day three: Wizards edge ahead

The Canterbury Wizards have set the Firebirds a run chase of 384 after a solid team effort saw them declare their second innings at 410/7.

The platform was again set from the top with Peter Fulton collecting his second half-century of the match. His 95-run opening stand with George Worker was broken midway through the morning session as Tip Friday bagged the first of the four wickets that would see him record his best first-class figures yet, while Worker powered on to a century after lunch before he, too, fell to a catch off the tall Friday shortly after raising the bat for the landmark.

By lunch the Canterbury lead was already 131, and although four wickets tumbled in the middle session, useful starts from Shanan Stewart and Dean Brownlie and a half-century from Tom Latham combined to propel the Wizards to a strong position after tea. Todd Astle chimed in with 37 down the order while Ronnie Hira slapped Grant Elliott for sixes en route to a breezy unbeaten half-century as the Wizards looked to add quick runs, leaving themselves six overs to have a crack at the Firebirds batsmen at the end of the day.

The Firebirds will begin day four needing a further 371 runs to save the match. 

Day two:

Day two saw the wrestling continue between the HELL Wellington Firebirds and Canterbury Wizards, the match remaining in the balance.

The morning session began abruptly with two quick wickets - Josh Brodie caught behind off McCone and Papps lost to Findlay for 11. But all eyes turned to Jesse Ryder as he strode to the middle and his turn at the crease didn't disappoint, a trademark, boundary-laden half-century blasted off just 52 balls.

Ryder fell on 78 just after the lunch break, and when Luke Woodcock was caught and bowled almost immediately by fellow spinner Todd Astle, it was left to number three Stephen Murdoch to push on for three figures - notching his fifth first-class century shortly before he became Tim Johnston's second wicket of the session. Murdoch was more than ably supported by Luke Ronchi, who slammed an aggressive 95 before miscuing Astle - becoming one of three batsmen caught by Johnston in the innings.

The Firebirds inched into the lead after tea, but when their account was closed at 356, it left the Wizards trailing by just 27 runs with an hour until stumps. The visitors soon overhauled the deficit to lead by 16 overnight, both sides still very much in with a shout.

Day two: Firebirds fight back at Basin

Peter Fulton made hay while the sun shone on the Hawkins Basin Reserve, the early aggressor after the Wizards chose to bat on the first morning of their clash with the Firebirds.

Fulton used the pace from a fiery Mark Gillespie and Scott Kuggeleijn to race to a run-a-ball 50, then clobbered Tipene Friday for six, while a distinctly more watchful George Worker (chastened by having been put down early three times in the slips) tended the anchor.

Wizards captain Fulton was in his element leading the run charge, pounding Harry Boam for a boundary to bring up the 100-run opening partnership, his own share 76. But his blazing innings came to a halt just two overs before the break when he was caught behind off Kuggeleijn on 94, hooking a skier that, had it not been for the fateful edge, would have been the glory shot for his century.

The Wizards were nevertheless well set at 132/1 after the first session, but by tea they had crumbled to 217/7 after a middle-order collapse against the combined forces of Friday and Boam.

Brent Findlay and Ryan McCone battled to a 70-run stand for the 8th wicket, but when Ili Tugaga claimed Findlay, on 45, in the first of two quick wickets, the Wizards declared at 329/9 and McCone was left unbeaten after a gritty 35. At stumps the HELL Wellington Firebirds were 1/0 in reply.

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