My corner of the oval

… thoughts from a Kiwi cricket fan

Wellington won!

on November 11, 2013

Yes, you read that title correctly :p

It has been a long-running joke in sporting circles in New Zealand over the years that Wellington sporting teams have “always been the bridesmaid and never the bride,” as the saying goes.

However, bookended between a stunning New Zealand Black Caps T20 win over Bangladesh in Mirpur on Wednesday evening, and a sadly washed-out Black Caps first One-Day International match against Sri Lanka in Hambantota on Sunday … and punctuated with a domestic HRV Cup T20 win to Northern Districts over Otago in Dunedin on Saturday … the Wellington Firebirds completed a satisfying victory in a Plunket Shield 4-day match over the Central Districts Stags at the Basin Reserve in Wellington!

Wellington v Central Districts scorecard

The game didn’t start out very promisingly, with most of day one being washed-out by Spring rains hitting the Capital city.  However, somehow 60 overs were bowled and Central Districts were looking well placed at 208/6 at the end of the day.

Fortunately for Wellington, Mark Gillespie (6/77) and Brent Arnel (4/77) had other ideas and the Stags were bowled out in their first innings for 289 on day two and the Firebirds were able to start their advance to chasing down this total, ending the day at 149/2.

The first innings for Wellington was highlighted by three fantastic batting performances, ironically the lucky number of which being 62, with Michael Papps (does this guy know how to bat, or what?!) and Steve Murdoch putting on a second wicket partnership of 100 runs, while Jeetan Patel batted through to the end of the innings to score another First-Class half century also.

I have to also say that I actually really enjoying having the opportunity to watch Doug Bracewell bowling, live and without the pressure of bowling for New Zealand.  His 4/60 in the first innings and the manner he went about bowling to get these wickets, was definitely another highlight of my cricket-watching weekend!

Day three was also highlighted by a lively and enthusiastic number of fans watching from the famous embankment at the Basin Reserve, and the “international football” guys who situated themselves at the northern end of the ground for the afternoon were greatly appreciated for their lively banter (and clean, respectful banter, at that!) to and with the players on the field!  Although, I’m pretty sure Sir Richard Hadlee and Jeremy Coney weren’t actually playing on the weekend, guys 😉

Sunday, and the final day of the match, and this fan wasn’t actually feeling the best and looking like giving another afternoon of cricket-watching a miss … particularly cause watching cricket at the Basin Reserve in November and December isn’t the warmest thing for the fans, with the Spring winds whipping through the ground; however, I am so glad I put on my puffer jacket and made the effort to take my seat on the Terraces, not least because I had the opportunity of chatting with the Chief Executive of the Cricket Players’ Association towards the end of the day 🙂

Special note must be made of Ben Smith’s (not the All Black!) maiden First-Class century (133) for the Central Stags, as well as Carl Cachopa (54) and captain Kieran Noema-Barnett (32) batting well to be able to declare rather generously, and set the Wellington Firebirds a target of 310 runs in about three and  a half hours remaining in the match.

For a fan who has watched many Wellington run chases in the past seasons, it was most gratifying to see the top order for the Firebirds go about reaching this target in such a positive manner, and when Steve Murdoch had to retire on 30 runs (3 runs short of a milestone 2000 runs in First-Class cricket, I might add!) after getting hit on the side of the face by a really nasty bouncing delivery (from the sound of the ball crashing against his helmet, which was heard loudly from the sidelines, I am very glad he ‘only’ came away with soreness, bruising and swelling) … captain James Franklin, along with Michael Pollard and Luke Woodcock, continued the positive batting mindset, scoring 61, 65 and 56 respectively.

Ironically, during the tea break on this last day, I had been lamenting with the curator at the NZ Cricket Museum that Luke Woodcock didn’t seem to have a lot to do in the team these days, with Jeetan Patel being the preferred spin bowling option in 4-day matches, and Mark Houghton being preferred sometimes over him in limited overs games, so I was exceedingly pleased when he scored his 31st half century and, together with Jeetan Patel (who in the past has been criticised for his batting technique and ability to stay at the crease) followed up his half century in the first innings with a well-fought 24, including two cover drives for boundary-fours to win the game for the Firebirds!

So, despite feeling really, really cold; hungry (the game finished just before 7pm) and needing to use the bathroom by the end of the match, all these things were put into the shade by the happiness of knowing the Wellington Firebirds had won the game, and were currently sitting at the top of the Plunket Shield points table (Okay, so some teams haven’t started their Plunket Shield season yet, but still!)

When you’ve been the bridesmaid for so long, being the winning team … and seeing so much promise for the season ahead, is immensely satisfying!

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