The top of the table side taking on the cellar dweller. It should have been a walkover, right? Not in Plunket Shield cricket.
At tea on the last day the Volts needed 128 runs to win with seven wickets in hand and 39 overs remaining, captain Brad Wilson set on 66 at his former home ground, and Anaru Kitchen on 37 at the break.
Wilson (74) would be run out in the last session but Kitchen would go on to reach his eighth first-class century, and by then the Volts would require just a further 37 runs to win with six wickets in hand and 18.2 overs remaining to claim their first outright of the season.
The five-wicket win bumped the Volts ahead of the Central Stags into fifth on the table with four rounds remaining in the season.
BJ Watling continued a gladdening return to first-class cricket to swat 96 of ND’s second innings effort of 240 for eight.
The BLACKCAP had helped give the championship leaders a lead of 242, setting up a crunch final day against the winless, but evidently hungry, Volts.
Bumped up a spot in the order to five, Watling led the way as ND recovered from the shock of losing all three of their top order bastmen without score to be 0/3 in the third over.
A fired-up Jacob Duffy had bowled Daniel Flynn with his second ball before coming back for Bharat Popli, while in the interim Sam Wells had taken out Tim Seifert, caught.
Leg-spinner Rippon would eventually blot out thoughts of a century, but not before Watling had made sure his side stayed in the game — notably putting on 91 for the eighth wicket with Joe Walker (a career best 55 not out).
Earlier, the Volts had resumed at 270 for eight but were quickly sent back in by Kuggelelijn for 276, just two runs behind their hosts. It was Kuggeleijn’s fifth first-class five-wicket haul, 5-68 off 20 overs.
Chasing ND’s first innings tally of 278, the Volts fought their way through the second day’s play to sit on the verge of a lead, 270 for eight by stumps.
ND had resumed at 269 for nine, but added only nine further runs before BJ Watling was dismissed for 42, handing a three-for to Michael Rippon on Volts debut. Watling was soon back in the thick of it, however, diving low on the leg-side to send opener Rippon on his way for just nine runs.
The opening breakthrough was Jimmy Baker’s, but the very next over Scott Kuggeleijn was in the wickets column as well, claiming Wilson cheaply en route to a haul of 3-67.
Seamer Baker was right a home in the Northland humidity but a stubborn 138-run fifth-wicket partnership between Derek de Boorder and Anaru Kitchen made sure the ND bowlers would sweat for their returns.
Kitchen slashed 76 from 103 balls while patient de Boorder made it to 89 off 202 balls before falling to Scott Kuggeleijn with the second new ball in his mitt.
Daryl Mitchell had already claimed Kitchen and Sam Wells in the same over, while de Boorder’s dismissal triggered a quick late clump.
Northern Districts 269/9 (Tim Seifert 97, Bharat Popli 61, BJ Watling 38 not out; Nathan Smith maiden 5-48) vs Otago Volts at Cobham Oval, Whangarei on Saturday 25 February 2017
The sole round six Plunket Shield tussle to get underway on Saturday produced a ding-dong battle between two young talents.
Tim Seifert’s ball-slamming abilities are becoming increasingly well known in short format cricket, but the 22-year-old’s first-class game is evidently in good shape, too.
The Northern Districts keeper-batsman has the luxury of concentrating on opening the batting in this round due to the presence down the order of one BJ Watling, who is wearing the gloves in Whangarei on return from injury.
Seifert seized that opportunity to come within one hit of what would have been a second first-class century, until he was trapped trying to sweep chinaman bowler Michael Rippon on 97.
Rippon, who has already played first-class matches for The Netherlands and in South Africa’s first-class competition, was on Plunket Shield debut for the Volts after joining their white ball campaign earlier in the season. He would remove opening anchor Seifert early in the last session, then went on to claim tailender Jimmy Baker as the last wicket of a day that saw competition leaders ND soldier to 269 for nine at a warm and humid Cobham Oval.
Whose day was it with the ball? Young swing prodigy Nathan Smith, back at the same ground where he made his first-class debut at the tail of last summer and now playing his third Plunket Shield match for the injury-troubled Otago Volts.
Eighteen-year-old Smith has every reason to like Cobham Oval and its humidity. On debut last season he had impressed with 3-80 against ND. Today he went two better to pick up his maiden first-class five-for in just his third match.
All rhythm and swing, he put together an impressive bag that included ND captain Daniel Flynn (trapped on 19), Corey Anderson (chopping on for a two-ball duck), last season’s batsman of the summer Bharat Popli (caught on 61), hard-hitter Nick Kelly (trapped by another yorker-length in-swinger on 19, as Flynn had been) and the never-to-be-underestimated number eight Scott Kuggeleijn (bowled by a peach on 11).
He finished the day with superb figures of 5-48 from his 20 overs while the Volts also had Jacob Duffy back in the bowling mix after a period of leave this summer to remodel his action, bowling 19 overs on his return for no wicket.
From a healthy 143/2, ND had spiralled away to be on the cliff-edge at stumps, Watling unbeaten on 38.