It was Wellington's Luke Woodcock who ultimately secured Central Districts their eighth domestic four-day title.
Woodcock wasn't in Nelson, where Plunket Shield leaders Central had been hosting Northern Districts. Nor did he take a wicket as Wellington came from nowhere to beat second-placed Otago by 54 runs at the Basin Reserve.
But Woodcock still played a pivotal part in convincing CD that they really had become Plunket Shield champions on Saturday afternoon.
Central's pre-match equation had been to beat ND, while hoping Wellington would remove any external pressure by tipping over Otago. Come Saturday, their match with ND still hung in the balance, but Wellington were definitely doing their bit.
"Everyone was on their phones watching the updates on the Black Caps website," CD manager and assistant coach Lance Hamilton said.
"But after they [Otago] were nine wickets down it didn't update for ages and we didn't know where we stood. Then we got a text from Luke Woodcock to Tarun [Nethula] saying ‘we've just won, so so have you'.
"Then I had one from [Wellington wicketkeeper] Luke Ronchi as well saying ‘well done' but it still didn't update on the system so we were like, ‘prove it'.
"So Luke Woodcock rang Tarun while Wellington were singing their victory song in the dressing room and we put it on loudspeaker and all jumped up and down and celebrated too."
Not out batsmen Jamie How and Carl Cachopa soon twigged and had a quick hug. Cachopa was out shortly after but Mathew Sinclair joined How and the pair got through to tea, when the game was called off and the party could begin in earnest.
CD were 116-2 after 22 overs, having been set 285 for outright points.
The celebrations went well into yesterday morning and CD's joy was only marginally greater than that of Wellington.
All-rounder Scott Kuggeleijn had said at stumps on Friday night that he fully expected Otago to have beaten his team by then. But his own stout batting, and that of Jeetan Patel, took the match into the last day in which Otago were set 200 to win.
Patel snared Darren Broom at first slip off Ili Tugaga before Harry Boam ran out Aaron Redmond to leave Otago 14-2.They barely fired a shot from there, as Mark Gillespie took 4-50, Patel 3-52 and Tugaga 2-17 as Otago folded for just 145.
"The boys bowled beautifully, we believed in ourselves the whole time and it was great to put an end to Otago's run," Wellington coach Jamie Siddons said.
"Especially because we've got to play them [in 50-over cricket] on Tuesday. It's nice that we've jumped all over them and we've got a pretty good team for Tuesday."
That team is headed by the Jesse Ryder, who returns from a groin injury, plus Black Caps James Franklin and Grant Elliott. Franklin will captain the Firebirds, presumably for the entire one-day campaign, having been left out of New Zealand's squad for the first test against England.
The national selectors have named a squad of 12 to assemble in Dunedin for the match, which begins on March 6, and have left open an additional spot for a fast bowler.
Gillespie would be a candidate to be that man, having taken 45 Plunket Shield wickets this summer. That made him equal top wicket-taker with ND's Brent Arnel.
Gillespie is in the New Zealand XI team to meet England in Queenstown, starting on Wednesday, and should graduate to the test team, according to Siddons.
"I don't think he's any different from the guy who took two five-fors [for the Black Caps] last year. I can't believe he's not in there already," Siddons said.
HOW THEY LINE UP
Wellington one-day team to meet Otago tomorrow: Jesse Ryder, Michael Papps, Stephen Murdoch, Grant Elliott, James Franklin (c), Luke Woodcock, Harry Boam, Tom Blundell, Scott Kuggeleijn, Mark Houghton, Tipene Friday, Ili Tugaga
- © Fairfax NZ News
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