Jesse Ryder has put on a spectacular display in the Wellington Firebirds five wicket victory over the Central Stags at Nelson Park in Napier.
The first round Plunket Shield match produced an absolute thriller, with the Firebirds chasing down their fourth innings target of 342 in just 67 overs.
Ryder did it almost single-handedly, making 174 off just 136 balls to bring up his second consecutive century.
Earlier in the day Doug Bracewell had extended the Stags fourth innings total to 298, before declaring seven wickets down. Bracewell fell for 85, but alongside Will Young (37*) looked to have pushed the home side to an unassailable lead.
But the unbeaten 117 that Ryder had put on in the first innings was just the beginning of what would turn out to be a memorable match for the 28 year-old.
The dynamic batsman once again took it to the Stag’s bowlers, leading his side back from the precarious position of 112 for four.
He crushed 23 fours and two sixes in the innings and brought the side to within 63 of victory. His century came off just 85 balls.
He was dismissed in the 56th over by Carl Cachopa, leaving the task in the capable hands of Luke Woodcock.
Woodcock played sensibly on his way to 69 and alongside Luke Ronchi (36*) secured the incredible victory after 67 overs.
Intriguing final day looms
It’s too close to call heading into the final day of the Plunket Shield match between the Wellington Firebirds and Central Stags at Nelson Park.
The Stags hold a 266 run advantage with four wickets in hand and won’t want to give the visitors any opportunity to chase down the target tomorrow.
The Firebirds had earlier managed to close to within 43 of the Stags’ first innings total, with an immaculate unbeaten century from Jesse Ryder getting them to 340 all out.
Ryder was unstoppable on his way to 117 and looked like he was capable of batting through the rest of the day. Unfortunately he ran out of partners and after 85.1 overs was left stranded at the crease.
The Stags in reply looked shaky. Three of the top four made starts, but were unable to progress, leaving their side at 112 for four.
New captain Kieran Noema-Barnett came in and played a much needed knock of 60 to boost the side to past the 150 mark.
When he fell, Doug Bracewell (34*) and youngster Will Young (14*) took the reins and together saw their team to the end of the day at 223 for six.
Mark Gillespie, Grant Elliot and Luke Woodcock all picked up two wickets apiece.
The Stags are likely to try push their lead beyond 300 tomorrow morning, while the Firebirds will be looking for an early breakthrough before beginning what will have to be a fast-paced pursuit.
Day two: Ryder resilient for Firebirds
The Wellington Firebirds finished day two of their Plunket Shield match against the Central Stags trailing by 129 runs, but it was a familiar face who kept them in touch.
Following Central’s declaration at 383 for eight, Jesse Ryder anchored the Firebirds pursuit with an unbeaten 84. Unfortunately they lost wickets all too regularly around him and finished the day at 253 for eight.
Carrying on from 301 for three overnight, the Stags added another 82 for the loss of five further wickets before declaring.
In reply the Firebirds got off to a strong start, with Michael Papps (52) and Stephen Murdoch (48) putting on 102 for the first wicket. It came as a blow though when both were dismissed in quick succession, triggering a collapse for the visitors.
They lost five wickets in the space of 60 runs and a complete capitulation looked possible. However there was one thorn in the side of the Stags’ bowlers, with Ryder playing quickly yet sensibly.
The 28 year-old hit eight fours in an unbeaten 84, which came off just 83 deliveries. He’ll resume tomorrow with Mark Gillespie on seven and with high hopes of bringing up his 11th First-Class century.
The wickets were shared amongst the bowlers, but of notice was young quick Ben Wheeler who picked up two wickets for 62 from 16 overs.
Day one: Stags off to strong start
The Central Stags finished day one of their opening round Plunket Shield match against the Wellington Firebirds in a solid position at Nelson Park in Napier.
The Stags were put into bat by the Firebirds and were boosted by a colossal third wicket partnership worth 224 between Carl Cachopa and Mathew Sinclair. Both players brought up centuries and helped their side to 301 for three at stumps.
Jeet Raval and Jamie How were both dismissed for 11 in the opening stages and the Stags were 30 for two. That introduced the pair of Cachopa and Sinclair and together they took the game away from the Firebirds.
Sinclair was the first to bring up his ton and did so off 161 balls. Soon after the pair brought up the 200 partnership and Cachopa joined him on triple figures, with his century coming off 192 balls.
Luke Woodcock finally broke the partnership in the 78th over when he Cachopa caught by Gillespie for 105.
Kieran Noema-Barnett replaced the 26 year-old and alongside Sinclair saw out the rest of the days play. Noema-Barnett will resume on 21, while Sinclair will look to build on his unbeaten 126. Today’s effort brought up his 35th First-Class century.
It was a tough day in the field for the Firebirds, with the bowlers finding little joy. Mark Gillespie, Dean Hutchinson and Woodcock all picked up a wicket a piece.