Spinner Jeetan Patel proved he is far from a spent force before the Wellington Firebirds were let down by their batsmen in a Plunket Shield draw with the Auckland Aces today.
Rain had close to the final word, forcing the players from Bert Sutcliffe Oval at Lincoln for a lengthy period on the fourth and final afternoon with the Firebirds an unconvincing 58 for five chasing 250 for outright points.
They got back out in the middle after 5pm but having lost 25 overs to the elements survival was uppermost in the minds of the Firebirds, who at least achieved that to finish on 86 for five when bad light intervened, leaving Harry Boam unbeaten on 21 and James Franklin 15 not out.
Behind for so much of the four-day fixture, the Firebirds were stirred into action by Patel and slow bowling accomplice Luke Woodcock.
These two were principally responsible for knocking the Aces over for just 125 in their second innings and leaving the Firebirds a tantalising target from 75 overs to win the match.
Patel snapped up five for 39 and first innings centurymaker Woodcock four for 16 after the Aces resumed the final morning on 43 for two.
It marked 31-year-old Patel’s eighth five-wicket haul at first-class level, his fifth for the Firebirds and his first in New Zealand since the 2008/2009 season.
He and Woodcock operated with cunning as a pair, with Patel sending down 24 demanding overs while Woodcock’s figures were earned from just 10.3 overs as skipper Grant Elliott found success by employing spin at both ends.
Likewise, the Aces’ most potent weapon initially proved to be left-arm spinner Bruce Martin, who initiated a sudden collapse from the Firebirds top order after openers Josh Brodie and Michael Papps had been untroubled to reach 37.
In the blink of an eye and 12 balls later it was 37 for four after Martin trapped Papps leg before wicket for 13 then seamer Andre Adams dismissed Brodie for 24 to an edge behind off the first ball of the next over.
Stephen Murdoch did not get off the mark before Martin’s raucous leg before wicket appeal was upheld and there was further upheaval when Elliott was run out without scoring by a direct hit from Adams.
One more wicket fell, with Woodcock unable to repeat his first innings heroics, being bowled for 12 by Adams, who took two for 26 off 14 overs to complement Martin’s two for 31 off 15.
Day 3: Woodcock leads firebirds resistance
Luke Woodcock did his best to paper over the cracks as he led the Wellington Firebirds’ fight back against the Auckland Aces in Plunket Shield action today.
Luke Woodcock scored 100 not out and James Franklin 68 as the Firebirds at least showed some bottle after threatening to implode on the third day of the fixture on Bert Sutcliffe Oval at Lincoln.
They declared at 233 for seven, conceding a first deficit of 124 runs, which the Aces turned into an overall lead of 167 by reaching 43 for two in their second innings at stumps.
The Firebirds had been in serious danger of collapsing completely when 40 for four just 22 overs into their response to the Aces’ first innings of 357 for seven declared.
The top order was brushed aside as fast bowler Michael Bates removed Michael Papps for a 19-ball duck then immediately accounted for Stephen Murdoch, who also did not trouble the scores.
Left-arm spinner Bruce Martin got in on the action to bowl Josh Brodie for 22 before collecting the scalp of captain Grant Elliott for 11 to leave the Firebirds teetering.
But Woodcock and Franklin responded to the challenge and produced a face saving stand of 115 for the fifth wicket before the latter edged behind off action man Andre Adams.
Elliott held back the declaration until Woodcock raised three figures for the fifth time at this level, the milestone coming at a good clip as it consumed 189 minutes and 175 balls, and featured 11 fours and one six.
Allrounder Adams had earlier produced the fireworks with the bat to thrash his way to 79 not out off only 54 deliveries.
He had resumed this morning on 27, with Colin de Grandhomme at the other end on 43 and the Aces at 284 for seven.
These two could not be separated, with de Grandhomme finishing 61 not out and Adams was also unconquered after belting seven fours and four sixes in 72 highly entertaining minutes.
Day 2: No play on day two at Lincoln
Rain meant that not a ball was bowled at two of the three venues on the scheduled second day of third round matches, at Rangiora and Lincoln.
At Lincoln, the Auckland Aces are 284 for seven in their first innings, a total heavily dependent on opener Tim McIntosh’s 104, with Colin de Grandhomme set to resume on 43 alongside Andre Adams on 27.
Day 1: McIntosh finds his touch for Aces
Tim McIntosh rediscovered his touch to shore up the Auckland Aces with a battling century in Plunket Shield action today.
The former international was the difference between respectability and potential embarrassment for the Aces, who had their hands full on the first day of a third round match against the Wellington Firebirds on Bert Sutcliffe Oval at Lincoln.
The 31-year-old former test opener grafted for a tick under five hours for his 104, providing the major resistance act as the Aces reached 284 for seven by the close.
It marked a timely return to form for the languid left-hander, whose four previous visits to the crease this summer had rewarded him with just 27 runs.
The Firebirds did a fine containment job all day to restrict the scoring rate, a scenario which suited McIntosh just fine.
Not one to be hurried anyway, he was happy to put his head down as his 17th first-class century was ticked off in 296 minutes, during which he faced 232 balls and hit 13 boundaries.
There was no such solidity at the other end and by the time McIntosh was deceived by offspinner Jeetan Patel the Aces had crawled their way to 182 for five.
Kyle Mills and Colin de Grandhomme then put on a neat 50 for the sixth wicket, a partnership which ended when left-arm quick Andy McKay had Mills caught by wicketkeeper Joe Austin-Smellie for 37.
De Grandhomme is set to resume tomorrow morning on 43 alongside Andre Adams, who produced some late fireworks to muscle his way to 27 not out off just nine balls.