In one of the closest First-Class matches in recent history, the Canterbury Wizards have triumphed by ten runs in their Plunket Shield match over the Wellington Firebirds.
Having been set a target of 470 to win, the Firebirds fought to the bitter end, with an unbeaten 183 from Michael Papps getting them within two strikes of victory.
Instead though, Hamish Bennett became the hero for the Wizards, taking the final wicket of Brent Arnel (8) to dismiss the victors for 459.
Having resumed the day a187 for four, Papps was resilient as ever and continued to frustrate the Wizards bowling attack. While he repelled everything coming his way, he needed a partner at the other end to do likewise, but unfortunately in the end this would be the Firebirds downfall.
There plenty of cameos – Luke Woodcock made 51, Luke Ronchi 43, Jeetan Patel 28 and Mark Gillespie 40 – but just as it looked as if the Firebirds were getting on top, a wicket would fall.
Papps brought up his 24th First-Class century off 190 balls, going on to pass the 150 milestone as well. However, with 48 still required for victory he was down to his final partner.
He and Arnel added 37 for the final wicket, but after 132.1 overs, Bennett took the glory for the Wizards when he knocked back Arnel’s stumps. It was ecstasy for the Wizards and heartbreak for the Firebirds.
Despite the loss, many plaudits will and should got to Papps, who did everything in his power for hid Firebirds side – unfortunately on this occasion it wasn’t enough.
Tough task for Firebirds
The Wellington Firebirds require a further 263 runs with four wickets in hand on the final day of their Plunket Shield match against the Canterbury Wizards.
An Andrew Ellis century took the Wizards to 376 for eight declared in their second innings, giving them an imposing overall lead of 470 runs. In reply though the Firebirds have refused to give up, ending the day at 187 for four, with Michael Papps unbeaten on 68.
The veteran opener will undoubtedly be the key for the Firebirds on the final day and will resume with Luke Woodcock (26*). Previously, cameos from Stephen Murdoch (24) and Michael Pollard (36) had edged their side onwards, but they’ll need a decent sized partnership soon for any chance of snatching victory.
Logan van Beek has two wickets so far, while Hamish Bennett and Todd Astle grabbed one apiece.
Earlier, Ellis had lifted the Wizards to a considerable lead thanks to his second First Class century.
The 31-year-old’s milestone was built from 147 balls and put the Wizards in a position of almost complete control. His innings came to and end on 117 when he was caught by Mark Gillespie off the bowling of Jeetan Patel.
The damage had been done though and the declaration came soon after.
It’s mission improbable on the final day for the Firebirds, but as long as Papps remains they’ll be in with a shot.
Canterbury in command
The Canterbury Wizards are in the pole position to secure victory over the Wellington Firebirds in their Plunket Shield match at MainPower Oval in Rangiora.
The home side dismissed the Firebirds for 130 in their first-innings today, giving them a lead of 93. They extended that lead in the second innings, finishing the day at 192 for six with an overall advantage of 285 runs.
The Wizards avoided a repeat of their top-order collapse from day one, with Tom Latham (65) and Dean Brownlie (83) taking their side to 100 for one. A string of quick wickets stunted their progress, but an unbeaten 32 from Andrew Ellis towards the end of the day made sure they kept the momentum.
Andy McKay has been the pick of the Firebirds bowlers so far, having captured three wickets in his 14 overs for 23 runs.
Earlier, he and the rest of the lower-order had put up some resistance to the Wizards bowling attack.
Having resumed the day at 27 for six, it was going to take an extraordinary effort for the Firebirds get an even remotely respectable score. They had a couple of aces left up their sleeve though, with
Woodcock (33) and Michael Papps (44*) at least ensuring they reached triple digits.
Ellis and Todd Astle had been the bowlers to finish off the job for the Wizards, taking two wickets apiece.
Tomorrow will see the Wizards try and add as many extras as possible, before they take another crack at the Firebirds batting line-up.
Wicket fly in Rangiora
Having fallen to 38 for four at the start of the day, it looked as if the Canterbury Wizards might be playing catch up in their Plunket Shield match against the Wellington Firebirds today – it wasn’t to be the case.
A composed 92 from Tom Latham drove the home side through to a total of 223 at MainPower Oval in Rangiora. While the total might not sound huge, the Firebirds now have a massive task on their hands not to give up a lead, having fallen to 27 for six in reply.
Hamish Bennett was responsible for most of the carnage, grabbing four wicket in his six overs for 15 runs. Logan van Beek also picked up a couple, leaving the Firebirds trailing by 196 runs with four wickets in hand heading into day two.
Earlier, Andy McKay and Mark Gillespie had been enjoying their opening spells against the Wizards batting line-up and put them in trouble early.
However, a mature innings from 21 year-old Latham turned around the home side’s fortunes somewhat. Alongside Brad Cachopa (27) and Andrew Ellis (40) he pushed his side past the 200 mark and gave his bowlers something to defend.
At this stage, it’s looking plenty.
The Firebirds will be looking for a similar knock from one of their batsmen tomorrow. Luke Woodcock and Andy McKay will resume at the crease.