The Wellington Firebirds cruised to a seven wicket victory over the Central Stags behind an incredible display of batting from supposed night-watchman Scott Kuggeleijn.
The game had been evenly poised at the start of the final day, with the Firebirds needing a further 194 to win and the Stags requiring seven more wickets. With Jesse Ryder gone, the visitors would have felt they were in with a great chance.
Unfortunately for them though a new danger man would be born, with night-watchman Kuggeleijn setting the match alight with a stunning array of strokes to post an unbeaten 142.
The Firebirds resumed at 54 for three, with Kuggeleijn at the crease with opener Michael Papps. The pair negotiated the difficult opening stages showing great composure and gave the Firebirds the early advantage.
Papps continued to accumulate at a steady rate, but his tidy innings was overshadowed by his partner’s brilliance.
Kuggeleijn began to look comfortable and after 198 minutes at the crease brought up his maiden First-Class century. It was a remarkable innings and one which would have caused as much delight for Wellington as it did frustration for the Stags.
In reaching the milestone he took the side past 200, closing to within 50 of the target. It was almost constant fireworks from there on in, with the 20 year-old clearing the hip regularly.
In the end he smashed a spectacular 15 fours and five sixes to reach 142 off 181 balls. It was an innings of beautifully controlled aggression and one which took their side to an all-important victory.
Papps finished with a more than helpful 77 not out and put on an unbeaten 214 run stand for the fourth wicket to surpass their target after 66.4 overs.
It was a hard and fruitless day for the Stags in the field, who suffered from the lack of an early break through.
It was a memorable day of cricket which very few could have predicted. If there was one thing to remember from it – always beware of the night-watchman.
Day three: Tense fourth day looms in Wellington
The fourth and final day of the Plunket Shield match between the Wellington Firebirds and Central Stags is sure to be an intriguing one, with both sides eyeing up a victory at Karori Park, Wellington.
The Stags posted 389 in their second innings to set the Firebirds’ a target of 247 to win. The home side were then rocked by the loss of three wickets at the end of the day to be 53 for three and needing 193 runs to win.
Crucially for the Stags, one of the wickets the Firebirds’ lost was that of danger man Jesse Ryder. Having scored a century in the first innings, the explosive number four was held to 19 on this occasion, caught off the bowling of Andrew Lamb.
Preceding his exit was Josh Brodie (4) and Stephen Murdoch (2), giving the Stags every hope of claiming the points tomorrow.
Lamb took saw the end of both Ryder and Murdoch, while Peter Trego dismissed Brodie.
At day’s start, Carl Cachopa had once again played a pivotal role in ensuring the Stag’ bowlers would have something respectable to defend.
Jeet Raval added 39 to his overnight total, before falling for 74. Cachopa then took over the reins and played freely to bring up his half-century off 61 balls.
He found support from Kruger van Wyk (41) and together they took Central past the 300 mark. Unlike so many other times this summer, Cachopa would be denied his century as he fell for 90 to James Franklin.
Trego came in and whipped a quick 59 from 65 balls, as the Stags came within 11 of 400. It was a fine fight back from the visitors, who had trailed by 143 runs after the first innings.
Having somehow found time to play before his departure to South Africa for the BLACKCAPS, Franklin picked up the side’s best bowling figures of four for 71 from 20 overs.
Day two: Stags trailing Firebirds
Having given up a 143 run first-innings lead the Central Stags are now storming back against the Wellington Firebirds on day two at Karori Park, Wellington.
In reply to the home sides’ 403, the Stags ended the day at 98 for one to remain just 45 runs behind.
Jamie How and Jeet Raval put on 89 for the first wicket, before How was caught on 51 in the 31st over. Raval though kept fighting and alongside Roald Badenhorst saw out the finals overs to give the Stags hope of setting a decent total in the second innings.
Earlier, Michael Papps and Jesse Ryder had continued where they left off on day one to put on a whopping 256 for the third wicket. Ryder brought up yet another milestone by reaching 150, with Papps brining up his century soon after.
The 33 year-old brought up triple digits off 162 balls, to claim his 23rd First-Class century in what has been a glittering domestic career.
The partnership was eventually broken when Ryder was on 162 and Wellington were on 271. It began a downward trend for the Firebirds, as Papps fell soon after for 117 and the next three batsmen all went cheaply.
A couple of useful knocks from Chris Woakes (41) and Jeetan Patel (40) stung the Stags some more, as the Firebirds built a lead of well over 100.
Ajaz Patel and Andrew Lamb were both effective with the ball and collected three wickets apiece. Roald Badenhorst also contributed with two late wickets.
Day one: Firebirds take charge on day one
The Wellington Firebirds dismissed the Central Stags for 260 on day one of their Plunket Shield match and in reply blasted their way to 176 for two at Karori Park, Wellington.
Two brilliant individual performances highlighted the day, the first of which was a maiden century from 20 year-old Will Young for the Stags. While Young will remember it for a long time to come, most of the attention will go to Jesse Ryder, who smashed his way to yet another ton.
At 15 for two the Firebirds’ chase began shakily, with both Josh Brodie and Stephen Murdoch out for single figures.
Any concern though was soon quelled, as Jesse Ryder and Michael Papps began an assault on the Stags’ bowling attack. Unsurprisingly, Ryder was the aggressor and scored at close to a run a ball. Papps played second fiddle somewhat, but still ended the day on a respectful 58 not out.
Ryder on the other hand had his eyes set on another target, smashing nine fours and four sixes to bring up his third century of the season. He ended 108* not out and currently averages a staggering 119 in the Plunket Shield in 2012.
Earlier, the Stags top-order had failed to form a substantial partnership and were in the precarious position of being 103 for four.
Coming in at number five, Young managed to weather the attack and score at a decent rate as well. The innings revolved around him as partners continued to come and go at regular intervals.
The recent NZ U-19 captain brought up his century off 141 balls, before he was eventually dismissed for 121. It was a fine display of batting under a lot of pressure to see his side past the 250 mark.
The wickets were shared amongst the Firebirds’ bowlers, with Mark Gillespie and Scott Kuggeleijn taking three wickets apiece and Chris Woakes grabbing two.
The Stags will be desperate to see the back of Ryder early tomorrow morning, or could face a hefty deficit.