Wellington's two frontline bowlers saved their batsmen's blushes; now they're banking on helpful overcast conditions this morning to do the job they were actually picked for.
Andy McKay and Mark Gillespie barely had time to finish their lunch in the Rangiora pavilion before they were thrown together with the Firebirds looking ill at 126-9 on day one of the Plunket Shield match against Canterbury.
Nineteen overs later the final pair had added 113, breaking a 68-year-old 10th wicket record of 87 for Wellington against Canterbury.
At stumps, Canterbury were 91-2 in reply to the Firebirds' 239, with discarded test batsman Dean Brownlie 53 not out.
McKay, who was unbeaten on 33 while Gillespie cracked 77 off 63 balls, said the pair barely had time to think after Grant Elliott, Harry Boam, Luke Ronchi and Scott Kuggeleijn departed in the space of seven deliveries.
"Thankfully it started to flatten out a bit," McKay said.
"If the ball was in our zone we were going to swing hard.
"We played some good shots in amongst some lucky shots. Dizz played some fantastic shots and waited for the right ball to hit."
Gillespie cleared the rope four times. He and McKay were four and three runs short, respectively, of their highest first-class scores. They were 25 short of the Wellington 10th wicket record of 138 by Ken James and William Brice against Otago in 1926-27.
The Firebirds' batsmen, Jesse Ryder excepted, have been underwhelming this season. McKay, though, had sympathy for them despite being left to bail out the innings at Mainpower Oval.
"It was a good toss to win. Both teams were keen to bowl and it was overcast conditions and the pitch was tacky. They bowled very well; it wasn't a case of us playing bad shots."
New Zealand limited overs all-rounder Andrew Ellis used the home conditions well, taking 6-58 including the prized wicket of Ryder, bowled for one.
Michael Papps and the returning Josh Brodie put on 59 for the first wicket but both departed in the space of one over, then Ryder faced just four deliveries as Ellis warmed to his task.
McKay said when the ball was nipping around the Firebirds felt 250 would be a good total, batting first.
And they were even happier when Gillespie and McKay removed George Worker and Shanan Stewart respectively to leave Canterbury 5-2 in reply. Brownlie and Peter Fulton (32 not out) added an unbroken 86 to give the hosts day one honours.
"It's forecast to rain [overnight] and hopefully it seeps under the covers. If we've got some overcast conditions, historically it's a much better time to bowl [in the morning]," McKay said.
In Gisborne, Central Districts are poised to bolt to the top of the ladder with a second consecutive victory as they chase 95 to beat Northern Districts.
CD's young pace duo Adam Milne (4-53) and Ben Wheeler (4-38) did the job yesterday as ND were dismissed for 252 in their second innings.
Daryl Mitchell's 83 and Ish Sodhi's 50 delayed the inevitable for the hosts.
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