Firebirds’ captain Nick Kelly missed a century by two runs but had the satisfaction of leading his side to a second consecutive outright victory, this time over current Plunket Shield holders the Central Stags. Having disposed of Canterbury in under three days at the Cello Basin Reserve over Labour weekend, the Firebirds did likewise at Nelson’s sunny Saxton Oval, going to 36 points on the Shield standings after two rounds.
Batting first in cool conditions, they were 19-3 before a middle order recovery from Callum McLachlan and Kelly eventually saw them reach 201 and earn a bonus batting point. The home side also found batting difficult and were 97-7 at the end of a tumultuous first day. They added 77 for the final three wickets on Sunday morning. but the Firebirds were 32 ahead when they began their second innings.
After a solid start by openers Troy Johnson and Nick Greenwood, Gareth Severin and Kelly combined in a third wicket stand of 155. Kelly was unfortunately dismissed in sight of his ton, one of only six wickets that fell on day two. On Monday Severin was dismissed on his overnight score, but Abbas batted attractively, and Younghusband held the tail together as the Firebirds went on to amass 324.
The Stags’ target for victory was 357 in a day and a half and they got through to 58-3 at tea. They were 92-3 after 30 overs when James Hartshorn was introduced into the attack. He took four wickets in seven overs, three of them clean bowled, reducing the Stags to 106-7. Ajaz Patel and Dane Cleaver held out in a stand of 68 for the eighth wicket, but Snedden removed Patel for 49, including ten 4s. With play being extended by 30 minutes, the last two wickets fell quickly, with the final blow being a sharp catch close in by Greenwood to give Smith his third wicket in the innings and the Firebirds a deserved second victory.
The Firebirds return home this week to prepare for their next test against the unbeaten Northern Districts at home next week, beginning Monday.
28-30 October 2023
Saxton Oval, Nelson
Wellington Firebirds 201 (McLachlan 49, Kelly 43) and 324 (Kelly 98, Severin 77, Abbas 45, Greenwood 29, Younghusband 28*)
beat the Central Stags 169 (Smith 4-34, Snedden 3-55) and 184 (Hartshorn 4-17, Smith 3-55) by 172 runs.