Firebirds finally deliver on potential

Last updated 05:00 16/12/2013
SWEPT AWAY: Led by century-maker Michael Pollard, Wellington stormed to an eight-wicket win over Otago in Invercargill yesterday.

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It is doff the hat time.

The Wellington cricket team have not always deserved saluting in recent seasons. They played calamitous cricket, yet could not see why anyone would criticise them for it.

This summer's flock of Firebirds? Well, you would have to say they are a fine side who are delivering on their undoubted potential.

Canterbury ought to have flogged them a week ago. Instead, Wellington fought back from the depths of 26 for six in their first innings to finish up losing that game by 10 runs, after positing 459 in their second turn at bat.

A poor team would not have got within 200 of that 470-run target.

And then to this week. At various points in Otago's first innings, in Invercargill, it seemed the Volts would vault clear and post the sort of score that might bat Wellington out of the game.

But the Firebirds hung in and knocked the hosts over for 339 and then replied with 487. Michael Pollard's 166 was his second hundred against Otago this summer; James Franklin made his 15th first-class hundred; and there were important fifties for Michael Papps and Luke Ronchi.

For all that, the game seemed like it would still go nowhere on the final afternoon. Otago were obviously content with a draw - it was just that Jeetan Patel, Luke Woodcock and Andy McKay were not.

The trio bowled the game back to life and, from nowhere, the Firebirds needed 82 from 24 overs to take maximum points. Pollard and Grant Elliott ensured they got there with eight wickets to spare last night, pushing their team up to second on the Plunket Shield table.

They host leaders Canterbury, at Karori Park, from Friday.

"We have the motto in this team of 'always believe' and we always believed that if you can get a couple of wickets, you can then get three, four or five, especially the way Jeets [Patel] was bowling on a turning deck," Pollard said.

Patel took four for 75, including the prized scalp of Jesse Ryder for five, with Woodcock chipping out Aaron Redmond and Nathan McCullum, and McKay claiming three wickets.

Getting the necessary 82 was not the easiest, with Otago's bowlers not bothering to bowl near the stumps too often, so Pollard took immense satisfaction from finishing the job off. "Getting big runs [in the first innings] is all well and good but if you don't win the game, then you still walk away with that sad feeling.

"To actually see it through in the second innings is awesome," said Pollard after his 24 not out from 13 balls.

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Coach Jamie Siddons has always had a massive opinion of Pollard, with the batsman himself not always scoring the runs to justify it.

Now we are starting to see the results to match the ball-striking.

In Napier, Central Districts' clash with Auckland ended in a draw, while Canterbury beat Northern Districts by six wickets in Christchurch.

- The Dominion Post


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