Plunket Shield round 10 of 10 Canterbury v Wellington Firebirds at Hagley Oval, Christchurch 29 March-1 April
Result: Wellington Firebirds beat Canterbury by seven wickets, Hamish Marshall posting an unbeaten century (105* off 94 balls, with Tom Blundell 63 not out) to join Glenn Phillips as the only player to score a ton in all three formats in a season. The fate of the Plunket Shield then rested on the result in Napier where the Stags required 20 runs to win and the Auckland Aces three wickets to lift the Shield.
The Stags were successful and, in denying the Aces an outright needed to reach the top of the table, Canterbury became New Zealand’s 2016/17 Plunket Shield champions, despite finishing their season with two losses.
At tea, the Wellington Firebirds had been doing it the hard way, 80/3 needing a further 147 runs and a stable partnership with which to get them.
Canterbury captain Andrew Ellis had declared at lunch at 271/8, the Firebirds requiring 227 runs to win in 62 overs from their final innings of the season.
Canterbury had begun the critical day six down with a lead of just 59, but that advantage grew to 226 thanks to captain Ellis’s ninth first-class ton, falling on 110.
Logan van Beek was unbeaten on 54 at the declaration while the ever consistent Brent Arnel finished with 4-52 as the most successful of the Firebirds’ attack. Ellis had also ticked off his 5000th first-class run when he reached 96.
Hamish Marshall would go on to bring the match home in style, posting his 31st first-class century with a six and the winning runs with a boundary a few balls later.
He had shared a 170-run unbroken stand for the fourth wicket, the next best contribution from opener Luke Woodcock who had got the innings underway with a boundary first ball.
Despite their winning finish, the Firebirds finished fourth on the season table.
First innings batting bonus points: Canterbury 0 (completed), Wellington Firebirds 4 (maximum achieved)
First innings bowling bonus points: Wellington Firebirds 4 (maximum achieved), Canterbury 2 (completed)
Tom Blundell posted his fourth first-class century as he and Peter Younghusband led a significant Firebirds recovery, much to the frustration of their hosts.
By lunch, their sixth-wicket stand had grown to 150, carrying on to push the Firebirds into the lead —Canterbury still hunting a wicket after having had the Firebirds by the throat at 74 for five yesterday.
The record-equalling partnership for their side against Canterbury grew to 274 before both batsmen were dismissed in the space of two overs — with Matt McEwan coming and going in between.
Will Williams (below) had been the one to put the wheels in motion, Blundell caught behind on 113 before Younghusband was bowled by Logan van Beek just three runs short of a maiden century.
The Firebirds quickly fell away with none of the remaining batsmen troubling the scorers, the Firebirds falling from 258 for five to 264 all out as Williams picked up his career best four for 37.
For all that, the Firebirds’ first innings lead was just 67 runs, but Canterbury’s second innings got off to a rocky start, none of the top four batsmen going past a score of 15 against the seam attack, Ian McPeake sticking out his lengthy arm on his follow through to pluck a caught and bowled to remove Chad Bowes.
By stumps Canterbury was 126 for six, a lead of 59 runs heading into a fascinating final day of the Plunket Shield seaso
First innings batting bonus points: Canterbury 0 (completed), Wellington Firebirds 0 (in progress)
First innings bowling bonus points: Wellington Firebirds 4 (maximum achieved), Canterbury 2 (in progress)
Morning showers saw an early lunch taken at Hagley Oval and when play eventually got underway, Canterbury was dismissed for197 — just 54 runs added to their overnight position and three runs short of any bonus points.
Luke Ronchi had equalled the Firebirds’ first-class dismissals-in-an-innings record with six (a record he already shared with Bert Vance, Chris Nevin and Joe Austin-Smellie) and he had kept to just four bowlers, each of the four-prong pace attack picking up a share of the victims.
But it was quickly tit for tat in the bowler-friendly conditions, Canterbury reducing the Firebirds to 82 for five by drinks in the last session. Tom Blundell was two runs from a half century when bad light ended play at 117 for five, having shared a 43-run stand with Peter Younghusband to take the Firebirds to 117 for five overnight, trailing Canterbury by just 80 runs.
Left-arm quick Ed Nuttall had been the best of the Canterbury attack sitting on figures of 3-30 overnight, his haul including a scoreless Luke Ronchi.
First innings batting bonus points: Canterbury 0 (in progress)
First innings bowling bonus points: Wellington Firebirds 3 (in progress)
Wet weather at Hagley Oval greeted Canterbury on the first morning as they prepared to host the Wellington Firebirds in what could prove a must-win match for the Plunket Shield championship — one of those tosses one would rather like to win, and it wasn’t Canterbury that won it.
By the end of the shortened day, Andrew Ellis and his men were seven down after just 48 overs, most of the leading lights in batting order having fallen away for single figures.
Just 143 was on the board, Todd Astle (above) in charge of trying to get Canterbury up to bonus point territory. On the brink of breaking Canterbury’s all-time wickets record, it was his bat that came to the rescue with an unbeaten 62, having shared a much needed 50-stand with Logan van Beek 24*) by stumps, the boundaries finally starting to flow in the last session before bad light stopped play.
Earlier, Canterbury’s horror start had seen Luke Ronchi pocket four catches behind the stumps inside the first 16 overs to celebrate his 100th first-class match.
Hamish Bennett had found the edge of both Jack Boyle and Peter Fulton. Brent Arnel had done the same to Ken McClure and Cole McConchie: 28 for four.
Then captain Andrew Ellis became the fifth to depart for a single digit score, losing his stump to Matt McEwan.
Astle’s resistance in the last session saw him post his 4000th first-class run, but Canterbury would seem to have a lot of work to do yet before looking to return serve with the ball.
Article courtesy of New Zealand Cricket.
Images courtesy of PHOTOSPORT NZ.