Nick Kelly broke out with his maiden List A century to help Northern Districts usurp the Auckland Aces at the top of the table by beating the Birds in round five, at Cobham Oval on 28 January 2017.
How it happened
• ND captain Dean Brownlie won the toss and jumped at batting on the hot, sunny Northland morning. But a wicket maiden to Iain McPeake — on his white ball debut for the Firebirds — first over of the game meant it didn’t start well for ND, nor Bharat Popli who found himself unceremoniously bowled yet again.
• The wicket brought in hometown debutant Harry Cooper, the son of a former ND captain, Barry Cooper. He looked good on his home ground against Brent Arnel and McPeake as he got underway with a trio of boundaries, then Brownlie found the rope four times in the seventh over to prompt a change, Anurag Verma coming in to settle things down with a maiden.
• He and Arnel bowled a tight line, the quiet spell culminating in Brownlie’s wicket when he was caught in the deep in the 13th over, off Verma, who returned an impressive 1-8 off his five-over spell. Enter Nick Kelly, ND at 45 for two.
• The Firebirds’ vastly experienced spinners came into the attack in tandem against the two youngsters, but they held their nerve and carefully made it to drinks, 62 for two after 19. Straight after the break, Cooper’s maiden stay was over, caught off opposing debutant McPeake.
• On 9*, Kelly was joined by Daryl Mitchell as the spinners came back on, and when Jeetan Patel started a fresh spell in the 28th, he ripped him for his first six. Suddenly both batsmen were getting it over the rope, and running good singles in between to take Kelly to his half century.
• They had just taken 11 off Woodcock’s 35th over when Arnel broke the 89-run partnership with Mitchell’s wicket on 27.
• Left-hander Kelly was by now on a career best 70* heading into the final 15 overs with the always combative Scott Kuggeleijn, who quickly joined him in finding the maximums against McPeake and Verma. It took a calamitous runout to remove Kuggeleijn after a quick 50-stand, Kelly having miscued a hook shot behind him, still looking to see where the ball went as Kuggeleijn sprinted down to say hello while bowler Verma whipped the bails off at the other end.
• ND at 203 for five, Tim Seifert quickly slotted in and got Kelly into the 90s for the first time, and as two more overs whizzed by, Kelly was on the cusp, 98* after 44. Wicket! Jeetan Patel trapped Seifert to put another pin in the ND balloon. Brett Hampton got off the mark with a single straight away, though, then Kelly returned next ball to take himself to 99*.
• Another single. Kelly on strike, but a leg bye ran away for four and ended the over. Deep breaths as Arnel came back into the attack to have a go at him.
• Hampton obliged by getting a single off the first, then Arnel dotted the next. Then — a single, and there it was: a maiden ton for 23-year-old Kelly off 92 balls, in just his sixth Ford Trophy match, at a strike rate of 108.
• They kept it going, taking 12 off Arnel’s 48th (helped by a couple of wides), then 13 off Verma’s 49th to wreck his figures. The last over began with Hampton (35 off 21) slugging his first six, the 50-stand for the seventh wicket coming up in no time as they finished strongly to take ND out to 285 for six, 18 off the 50th and Kelly unbeaten on 118 off 103 balls.
• That meant a chase of just under a run a ball for the Birds on the big ground, County pro Scott Borthwick moving ip to open the chase alongside Michael Papps, who got things underway first over with a boundary off Kuggeleijn. But the ND quick would have his revenge next overm getting him caught behind.
• Kuggeleijn was just getting started. He had Stephen Murdoch caught in his next over. Then put himself on a hat-trick in bizarre circumstances, neither bowler nor batsman initially noticing that the bail had been bumped from its nest. It was a sad way for Hamish Marshall to exit his 300th List A game: hit wicket for a golden.
• The hat-trick was averted but not the situation as the Firebirds were now in a fluster at 12/3 in the fifth. Kuggeleijn had a double wicket maiden. Borthwick was hanging on, Mike Pollard yet to score. Hampton and Ish Sodhi came on, Sodhi claiming Borthwick with the last ball of his first over: 44/4 after 12.
• Still needing another 242, the Birds were in trouble — and it got worse. Woodcock went cheaply, caught behind off Hampton. Pollard and Taylor had a massive job now, and would need to somehow find the balance between their natural instincts and staying in. It was never going to work, as Pollard became Hampton’s second.
• Taylor had made it to 40 off 46 balls by the 30-over mark, but he had just lost Verma: 123/7. Jono Boult then swooped in and claimed three late wickets, the Firebirds handing ND a bonus point (their third) along with the win as they crashed inside 35 overs.
The victory takes ND to the top of the table, marginally ahead of the Auckland Aces on net run rate. With just three rounds to go before Finals, ND heads to Hagley Oval to play Canterbury next, while the Firebirds go home to host the battle-wounded Central Stags in round six at the Basin this Wednesday.
Defending champions the Stags are now last on the table, having lost to the Volts in Palmerston North.