Pink ball cricket entered the final day of its debut with the Wellington Firebirds best placed to push for the first day/night outright. By drinks in the first session, the Volts had taken another couple of steps closer to the cliff-edge, Anaru Kitchen having been trapped early by Brent Arnel while Neil Broom made it to his 8000th first-class run before he, too, was trapped on 28, by spinner Luke Woodcock.
Arnel went on to claim Christi Viljoen in the same manner for his fourth wicket, the Volts 140 for seven following on and still 69 runs, not in the pink, but in the red.
By tea, however, the Volts had got through to 154 for seven, Sam Wells having reached a half century and, after the break, he chalked up a fifty stand with young Nathan Smith, who had reached his first-class career best.
The stand kept growing in both volume and audacity, taking the Volts into the lead as Wells led the way with a judicious selection of boundaries, putting himself in sight of a fourth first-class century.
By dinner they were 222 for seven, the stand worth 87 runs, and the break did not produce the breakthrough for the Firebirds. Instead Wells raised his bat for his hundred after whipping another boundary off Matt McEwan, then Smith did the same for his maiden half century as he chalked up the Volts' 250 with the same blow.
The eighth-wicket partnership was now in excess of 100 and, as the lights blazed overhead, would begin to threaten the 102-year-old Volts eighth wicket allcomers record of 165* set by 1907 Wisden Cricketer of the Year Jack Crawford and All Black Alfred Eckhold, coincidentally also against Wellington. In other words, this was some fightback.
Alas for nuffies everywhere it would be stopped on 141 when Hamish Bennett blasted out both batsmen in the space of four balls, Wells caught at second slip for a career-best 118.
Nine down, they had taken the Volts to an improbable and still insecure lead of 75. Jacob Duffy and Michael Rae both found the boundary early as the resistance continued further into the night, pushing the lead to triple figures. It was exactly 100 when Woodcock finally ended the defiance, the Volts all out for 304 and now with just nine overs left in the match. The captains shook hands to call it a draw shortly before 9pm.
The Firebirds will head to Napier next week to face the Central Stags in (red ball) round eight while the Volts go to Hagley Oval to play Canterbury, both free entry games starting Tuesday.
Once the Wellington Firebirds had declared their first innings at 302 for eight — Tom Blundell unbeaten on 68 and Matt Taylor having earlier retired on 34, their bowlers kept the capital ascendancy going in the only pink-ball match to get play on the third day.
And what a disastrous day it was for the Volts as they were bundled out for 98 in their first innings, then forced to follow on. By the time late-night rain stopped play (how novel to be say these words about first-class cricket!) they were already 59 for four in their second innings, and still trailing by 145.
Three-fa's for both Michael Rippon and Sam Wells had long been forgotten, the southern pride was wounded. They had been dismissed inside 44 overs during the middle session at the Stadium and now their backs were against the wall with a day still to play.
Neil Broom's 42 had comprised almost half the first innings total, and they had still been 204 behind with more than four sessions to play, weather permitting, when Michael Papps asked them to bat again.
For the Firebirds, it had been making up for lost time after a rain-wrecked second day: now the Volts must surely be hoping for a wet Thursday to save their bacon.
Hamish Bennett had been an absolute handful with the pink ball in his big paw, claiming 4-19 off 10 overs while seamers Ian McPeake and Matt McEwan chimed in with a career-best 3-24 and 2-17 respectively.
By stumps, McEwan had added 2-9 in the second innings with Brent Arnel sitting on 2-13, Broom and Anaru Kitchen the men with the imminent task of saving the Volts on the last day.
Play was washed out without a ball bowled.
Weather permitting, play will start at 1:30pm on day three to make up time.
At Westpac Stadium on 6 March 2017
Michael Papps has 11,136 first-class runs in his fine career, but the last 105 are all in a new colour. The doughty Wellington Firebirds captain added a new line to his CV by becoming the first batsman in Plunket Shield history to score a century in pink ball night cricket as the concept debuted in the New Zealand first-class competition on Monday.
Papps also becomes the first to score a first-class ton at newly minted first-class ground Westpac Stadium, but inevitably what meant the most to the 37-year-old right-hand opening soldier was getting his team into a solid position after having been sent in by Otago Volts captain Brad Wilson.
His 105 was his 29th first-class ton overall, a steady accumulation off 235 balls that underpinned his side's 252 for five by stumps (Tom Blundell 53 not out) against the Otago Volts. Papps fell trapped at the hands of Anaru Kitchen, while dangerman Michael Rippon (below) bowled 30 overs for his 3-65 at close of play, picking up Hamish Marshall, Stephen Murdoch and Michael Pollard all cheaply.
Matt Taylor (34 not out) and Blundell are looking to carry on their 53-stand for the sixth wicket on day two. Play begins at 2.30pm and entry at the Stadium is free all day.