The Wellington Firebirds started the day pressing for an outright win against the Otago Volts here at the Basin Reserve but when stumps were pulled tonight they would have been happy just to stave off an outright Plunket Shield cricket loss after their batsmen again got the final innings jitters.
The Firebirds' task was seemingly simple today -- knock over the last two Volts wickets cheaply and go about chasing 220-odd for victory -- but the Volts' lower order, which had already fired late on day three, continued to provide stubborn resistance.
Guided by half centuries to wicketkeeper Derek de Boorder, who was at the crease for nearly five hours for his 62, and No 11 Neil Wagner (55), and even an unbeaten 36 from No 11 Warren McSkimming, the Volts posted another 99 runs today.
When they were all out for 426, the southerners had set the Firebirds an unlikely 314 to win in 74 overs.
That target became unthinkable when the hosts fell to 20 for three and then 41 for four as their brittle top-order batting, a continual problem in recent seasons, fell victim to the unerring precision of left-arm quick Wagner.
Neal Parlane (42) and Michael Pollard (40) steadied the ship somewhat but it took a whirlwind unbeaten innings of 75 off just 74 balls from wicketkeeper Joe Austin-Smellie, and support from Harry Boam (23 not out) in an unbroken 104-run sixth wicket partnership, to secure the draw.
Wagner ended with four for 51.
The Firebirds claimed the two points for a first innings victory.
Day 3: Volts hang in at the Basin
A stubborn Otago Volts lower order batting effort means the Wellington Firebirds will have plenty of work to do at the Basin Reserve here tomorrow if they want to notch their first outright win of the Plunket Shield four-day cricket season.
A finish inside three days looked possible earlier today when the visitors slumped to 135 for five, a lead of just 23 runs.
But the Firebirds had not reckoned on nightwatchman Nick Beard spoiling the party and setting up an intriguing final day.
The spin bowler batted for nearly 4-1/2 hours for 62, bettering his previous highest first-class score by 20 runs, while Sam Wells, who benefitted from two dropped chances, was just as impressive in scoring 82.
Wicketkeeper Derek de Boorder, who was been at the crease a tick over three hours for his unbeaten on 29, and pace bowler Neil Wagner, 33 not out from 53 balls, continued the southerners' revival as they went to stumps at 327 for eight and with a lead of 214 runs.
Australian quick Jayde Herrick, in his first match for the Firebirds, has taken four for 78 from 34 overs.
The Firebirds' batting was brittle under pressure last season and has again looked vulnerable in the early stages of this campaign, so the Volts may fancy their chances if they can eke out another 40 runs tomorrow.
Day 2: Firebirds on top at the Basin
The Wellington Firebirds' lower order fired with the bat and their bowlers made early inroads as they moved into a strong position at stumps on day two of their Plunket Shield four-day cricket match against the Otago Volts here at the Basin Reserve.
The match was delicately poised as play resumed today with the Firebirds 77 for three in pursuit of 208 for first innings points, but a confident innings of 90 from young batsman Michael Pollard and good support from Harry Boam (39), wicketkeeper Joe Austin-Smellie (28 from 19 balls) and No 11 Jayde Herrick (13) saw the hosts bag the two points -- their first of the season.
They were able to press on to 320 all out, a lead of 113 runs, and Herrick, the 25-year-old Australian who plays for the Victorian second 11 but was rushed into the Firebirds team to bolster their injury-ravaged bowling stocks, was able to capitalise on their advantage.
He took two early wickets, and Boam chipped in with a third, as the Volts went to stumps at 84 for three, still 29 runs shy of making the Firebirds bat again.
The in-form Neil Broom may hold the key to the Volts' chances of setting a challenging target with the former international unbeaten on 50, an innings which has included eights fours.
Nightwatchman Nick Beard will resume with him tomorrow on eight.
Day 1: Firebirds have edge after first day
The Otago Volts' batsmen imploded as the Wellington Firebirds enjoyed a rare day of Plunket Shield success on the first day of their four-day cricket match at the Basin Reserve here today.
The Firebirds' decision to bowl first looked to have backfired as Volts openers Craig Cumming (56) and Aaron Redmond (50) put on 104 for the first wicket at a good clip, but a stunning post-lunch collapse saw the visitors lose eight wickets in the session and be bundled out for 207.
The Firebirds' second-string pace bowling lineup stepped up as Andrew Lamb (two for 24), Dewayne Bowden (two for 40) and 25-year-old Australian Jayde Herrick, a Victorian second 11 player summoned to bolster the Firebirds' injury-ravaged bowling stocks, (two for 74) did most of the damage.
The Volts were as much their own enemy, however, and lost two of their top six batsmen -- Darren Broom (7) and Sam Wells (0) -- to run outs.
The top scorer after the two openers was Ian Butler, who scored a quickfire 20.
The Firebirds, who lost their first two matches of the season outright, handed back some of their advantage after they lost two late wickets to go to stumps at 77 for three, though they will still be reflecting on a reasonable day's work.
Opener Josh Brodie will resume tomorrow on 34, with Michael Pollard yet to score.