Killer instinct isn't a quality that's always been associated with James Franklin's cricket, but it's what he's demanding of his players in the final four rounds of the Plunket Shield.
Rain brought a premature end to Wellington's clash with Auckland at the Basin Reserve yesterday, not that the match was really going anywhere. Auckland needed a purely nominal 299 to win, after Wellington were bowled out for 298 in their second turn at bat.
The main thing for the second-placed Firebirds was that they made ground on competition leaders Canterbury. Trailing them by 12 points coming into this round, Wellington ended a point closer, thanks to this draw and Canterbury's outright loss to Otago.
But you get yourself into dangerous territory once you rely upon other teams to do favours for you. The Firebirds are consistently getting themselves into winning positions, just not showing the resolve to convert those.
"I'd like to see a little bit more ruthlessness, especially from an experienced team like ours," Franklin said.
"I don't think we've been quite as sharp as we could be in our four-day cricket this summer, so it's a good thing that there's certainly a lot of room to improve for everyone in the team. We're all aware of it, it's just about doing it."
Day three of this match was a case in point. Auckland resumed at 270 for seven that morning, still a long way short of Wellington's first innings of 399.
But instead of a lead of 50 to 100, which Franklin thought was entirely feasible, the Firebirds suffered the indignity of Auckland's tail wagging and the visitors declaring at 399 for nine.
That made day four of the match a bit of a stalemate, with Wellington not really able to take the game forward and Auckland giving them nothing.
At least they didn't lose, though, thanks in large part to first innings hundreds from Tom Blundell and Franklin himself, then Grant Elliott in the second dig.
"It was really nice for Tom to get a [maiden] hundred and now I think he feels like he really belongs in our group. He's shown a lot of us older guys, that haven't seen him play a lot, that he can play and play very well so I'm stoked for him," said Franklin.
"It would be a huge relief for Grant to get a hundred under his belt.
We all know he's a quality player but, by his own admission, four-day runs have been a little bit thin."
And then there's the skipper, who now has three Plunket Shield centuries this season, on top of some domineering Twenty20 batting performances. Captains lead in different ways, but you'd certainly have to say Franklin is showing the way with his actions right now.
"I'm just thinking about doing my job out there as a batter. Sometimes it makes your voice a little bit stronger if you are performing, but it's history, it's about next week now," he said.
Opening batsman Josh Brodie looks set to come into the side for the injured Michael Pollard and it might be that Stephen Murdoch drops down to three in the batting lineup to allow Brodie to open against Central Districts at Napier, starting on Thursday.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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