Stephen Murdoch's century helped the Firebirds turn a corner

Defending champs break their drought

Round 5 Ford Trophy: Wellington Firebirds 264 in 49.4 overs (Pollard 56, Murdoch 123; Wagner 5-39) beat the SBS Bank Otago Volts 203 in 46.5 overs (Redmond 64, de Boorder 33; Arnel 4-33) by 61 runs at the Basin Reserve, Wellington

Wellington Firebirds captain James Franklin breathed a deep sigh of relief at the Basin Reserve after the defending champions got their first points on the board with a decisive fifth round win over the SBS Bank Otago Volts.

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“We’ve had our chances in the previous four games, but haven’t taken them,” said Franklin afterwards. “Today there was an element of ruthlessness in our performance — and our bowlers were outstanding, led by Brent Arnel and Luke Woodcock.”

Listen to Firebirds captain James Franklin

The 61-run victory was set up by top order batsman Stephen Murdoch. He shared a watchful 79-run stand with Michael Pollard (56) before powering to his third List A century after the Volts had won the toss and sent the Firebirds in on a sunny Basin.

The strong Volts unit boasted no fewer than three of the BLACKCAPS’ Test squad in their bowling attack — Neil Wagner, Jimmy Neesham and Mark Craig (with the batting addition of Hamish Rutherford to boot). Wagner delivered, producing only his second List A five-wicket bag (both against the Firebirds) — his economical 5-39 including three maidens.

Wagner started by blasting out Michael Papps’ middle stump. Murdoch was his fifth victim as wickets tumbled at the death — but not before the first drop had dug in for a well-crafted 123 off 138 balls to help his beleaguered team turn a corner.

Setting off on a chase of 265 after having dismissed the Firebirds in the final over, the Volts came under early pressure and lost regular wickets, crucially failing to build a solid partnership around captain Aaron Redmond’s dogged 64.

Redmond had dropped to number four to accommodate the return of BLACKCAPS opener Hamish Rutherford, but the best support he received was a stand of 63 for the fifth wicket from Derek de Boorder — who was caught trying to sweep Luke Woodcock with the score then 119/5.

Brent Arnel stood out for the Firebirds, his second four-wicket bag in successive games including a devastating 3-16 from his opening spell.

At six wickets down, the Volts required their last 100 runs off 11.1 overs, but despite the Firebirds dropping a spate of sitters at the death, they couldn’t get up to the challenge — Arnel having the last word when Murdoch finally cupped a good grab to dismiss Wagner and end the Volts’ lacklustre day in the 47th over.

Round six begins at the same venue on Monday when the Firebirds host the Mondiale Auckland Aces.

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