The Otago Volts found inspiration from fast bowler Neil Wagner to turn the Plunket Shield match against the Canterbury Wizards on its head before storming to a memorable six-wicket win at Rangiora today.
On the back foot for much of the contest the Volts thoroughly dominated the final day at MainPower Oval, due largely to 25-year-old left-armer Wagner.
He was the central figure in the Wizards’ spectacular second innings collapse as they were shot out for a meagre 61, Wagner’s share being figures of five for 33.
It was the latest example of the damage the South African, who is eligible to play for New Zealand in April, can cause. Last summer he captured 51 shield wickets, becoming only the second player in history to take 50 or more first-class wickets in a season.
He was at his brutal best again today, dismembering the Wizards innings as only one batsman, Shanan Stewart with 29, reached double figures.
Wagner had grand support at the other end, with English international Steven Finn picking up two for 10, offspinner Nathan McCullum two for eight and James McMillan one for eight.
It was the Wizards’ lowest score in the competition since 1992-93 when they were rolled for 42 by Otago at Carisbrook in Dunedin.
Their innings lasted only 28.4 overs as all 10 wickets fell in the first session after the Volts had declared their first innings at 300 for five to concede a deficit of 120 runs.
Left an enticing 182 to snare the result, the Volts duly delivered just after 5pm.
They had an early setback when opener Craig Cumming was dismissed for three but Aaron Redmond made 37, Michael Bracewell the same, Neil Broom 34 not out and McCullum a forthright 64 not out to steer them home.
There were some jitters when the Volts were reduced to 87 for four but Broom and McCullum settled the nerves, Broom by digging in for 104 minutes and McCullum by attacking means as he scored his runs off just 70 balls.
Day 3: Rain stalls progress at Rangiora
Rain has stalled progress in the Plunket Shield match between the Canterbury Wizards and Otago Volts at Rangiora.
The elements meant just 55 overs were possible at MainPower Oval today, with the Volts advancing from their overnight 122 for two to 293 for five.
They are still some way off the Wizards’ first innings of 420 for nine declared, and the time lost means the teams are affectively battling it out for first innings and bonus points as the fixture heads into its fourth and final day tomorrow.
Main interest today centred on young batsman Michael Bracewell’s bid to raise his maiden first-class century which ultimately came up short by five runs.
Resuming this morning on 41, alongside Neil Broom on 14, the 20-year-old left-hander soon passed 50 for the second time in four appearances at this level but shortly afterwards he lost Broom for 28.
Sam Wells instead lent Bracewell the support he required before Bracewell’s knocked ended on 95 when Ryan McCone had him caught by debutant Henry Nicholls.
Bracewell batted for 179 minutes in a highly encouraging performance at first drop, faced just 135 balls and struck 10 fours and two sixes.
Wells was still at the crease when rain forced the players from the field, his unbeaten 58 containing six boundaries, while wicketkeeper Derek de Boorder was at the other end on 38.
Day 2: Wizards work hard for dominant position
The Canterbury Wizards put in the hard work to sit pretty at the midway point of their Plunket Shield match against the Otago Volts.
The Volts ended the second day early due to bad light on 122 for two in their first innings, still 298 runs shy of the Wizards’ determined first up effort of 420 for nine declared.
The restart was delayed for a period this morning at Rangiora’s MainPower Oval but the Wizards still found the time to ensure opener Rob Nicol’s fine 107 on the first day did not go to waste.
Having resumed at 286 for four, they continued to make steady progress thanks to half-centuries to wicketkeeper Tom Latham and allrounder Andrew Ellis.
Latham added 10 to his overnight tally before departing for a neat 50 when left-arm fast bowler Neil Wagner induced an edge behind.
While debutant Henry Nicholls chimed in with a handy 33 and Todd Astle made 31, it was Ellis who gave the lower order added substance by making 50 not out in a tick over two hours, with seven fours studding his effort.
The Volts’ vaunted seam attack was affectively blunted as English international Steven Finn finished with three for 87 off 32.3 overs and Wagner took three for 104 off 25.
They made steady progress with the bat, Aaron Redmond making 29 and Craig Cumming 26 before Michael Bracewell adopted forthright tactics to reach 41 not out off 49 balls alongside Neil Broom, who is unbeaten on 14 off an identical number of deliveries.
Day 1: Nicol knuckles down for Wizards
New international Rob Nicol was a class apart as he laid a solid platform for the Canterbury Wizards in their Plunket Shield opener against the Otago Volts today.
Recently returned from Zimbabwe where he notched his maiden one-day international century on debut, Nicol made the transition to the four-day format look easy at Rangiora’s MainPower Oval.
The 28-year-old scored a classy 107, his 10th first class century, to provide the bricks and mortar to the Wizards’ opening day effort of 286 for four.
The reigning shield holders were largely held in check by the Volts attack as runs came at a cautious clip, although Nicol regularly founds gaps in the field as he collected 16 fours and a solitary six.
He put on 81 for the first wicket with newcomer George Worker before the former Central Stags batsman departed for 34 in the 26th over.
Skipper Peter Fulton chipped in with 22 before left-arm quick Neil Wagner induced an edge behind, then Nicol’s fine innings ended when England international Steven Finn pierced his defences.
Finn, who went wicketless in his opening spell, enjoyed later success by bowling Nicol after the former Aucklander had been at the crease for 276 minutes and faced 203 deliveries.
Shanan Stewart took the responsibility to build on Nicol’s good work, making 61 in 153 minutes until James McMillan had him caught by Nathan McCullum.
Tom Latham, on 40 not out, and debutant Henry Nicholls, on six, resume tomorrow.
McMillan was the pick of the Otago bowlers, working hard for his two for 42 from 15 overs, while Finn’s introduction to the domestic competition saw him end the day with one for 43 off 21.
* Image: Rob Nicol