The Northern Knights completed a record-breaking run chase on the final day to crush the Wellington Firebirds by nine wickets in Whangarei today and considerably tighten the race for the Plunket Shield four-day cricket title.
The Northern Knights resumed today at 11 without loss facing the seemingly challenging task of scoring a further 373 runs from 105 overs at Cobham Oval but the opening pair of Brad Wilson and BJ Watling made light work of the target with a brilliant first-wicket record partnership of 274 to set up a comfortable victory.
Wilson fell for 151, his second ton in two matches, but Watling saw the job through. He ended the match unbeaten on 164 alongside Hamish Marshall, who was 58 not out off 55 balls, as the hosts cruised to 385 for one in just 87 overs.
They had 21 overs, or an hour and 10 minutes, to spare.
It was the first time Northern have had an opening partnership of more than 200, obliterating the previous best of 167 between Matthew Bell and Michael Parlane against Central in 1994/95.
More significantly, though, Northern moved to within two points of competition leaders the Central Stags, who have 26 points and appear to have stalled somewhat after accumulating just two points during the past three rounds.
With Otago, 10-wicket victors over Auckland yesterday, moving up to 22 points, the race is well and truly on with four of 10 rounds remaining.
Wilson and Watling were largely untroubled, virtually securing the result in the morning session as they poured on 164 runs before sitting down for a well earned bite to eat. There was no let up for the Wellington bowlers post-lunch, Wilson moving through to a sixth first-class century moments before Watling achieved the same feat.
Wilson, who scored an unbeaten 100 in a successful run chase against Auckland in the previous round, was finally out for 151 after stroking 88 runs in boundaries but Watling, dropped from the New Zealand test setup last summer, was there at the end having faced 234 balls, the same number as Wilson.
The result will be tough for Wellington to swallow after they dominated the first three days, securing a 171-run first innings lead and declaring their second dig at 212 for four.
Day 4: Murdoch hits maiden First Class ton
Stephen Murdoch chalked up his maiden first-class century as the Wellington Firebirds set the Northern Knights a challenging 384 for victory at Cobham Oval.
Murdoch, who made 86 in the first innings, ended unbeaten on 104 after an innings peppered with 14 boundaries. The 27-year-old opener, playing his sixth first-class match, shared in a 112-run stand for the second wicket with skipper Grant Elliott (65). Northern seamer Brent Arnel took three wickets in the space of nine balls to be the pick of the home bowlers.
When bad light ended play early Northern were 11 without loss, to set up an intriguing run chase on the final day.
Day 3: Patel falls just short of century
Jeetan Patel fell one run short of his maiden first-class century for the Wellington Firebirds as they made 406 batting first against the Northern Knights in Whangarei.
Patel, whose only first-class ton came against Yorkshire while enjoying a brief stint with Warwickshire in country cricket in 2009, cracked eight fours and four sixes in his 125-ball stay.
The Boult brothers, off-spinner Jono and left-arm paceman Trent, claimed three wickets each.
Northern were 142 for three, with Hamish Marshall 60 not out, in reply at Cobham Oval.
Day 1: Firebirds crawl to 227-5 on day one
Opener Stephen Murdoch hit his second-highest first-class score as Wellington crawled to 227 for five at stumps batting first against Northern Knights at Cobham Oval in Whangarei.
Murdoch made 86 and shared in a valuable 144-run partnership with Neale Parlane (58) for the third wicket as Wellington adopted a cautious approach. Murdoch's innings lasted over five hours and his diligence was matched by Parlane who took 177 balls to score his runs.
Stewart Rhodes was unbeaten on 19 and Joe Austin-Smellie was 25 not out at the close.
Left-armer Trent Boult had the economical figures of two for 35 from 21 overs as the leading Northern pacemen all conceded less than two runs an over.