Firebirds eke out draw with Auckland

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2013

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Luke Ronchi's immediate playing future appears in doubt after he tore a hamstring late in Wellington's unsuccessful pursuit of 266 against Auckland yesterday.

The dynamic wicketkeeper-batsman looked poised to guide the Firebirds to victory at the Basin Reserve until he pulled up lame running a short single. Ronchi hit the next ball for six before being caught off the following one and gingerly trudging off.

Wellington eventually held out for a draw, finishing at 199 for eight. It was a cruel result for the Firebirds who won more sessions than they lost, but worse for Ronchi if, as assistant coach Shane Deitz said, he has indeed pulled his hamstring.

In that case a spell of four to six weeks wouldn't be unlikely, potentially ruling Ronchi out for the remainder of the season.

Jesse Ryder again batted at No 7 yesterday, making a two-ball duck, because of the groin injury that restricted his mobility during the match, and isn't a certain starter for Wellington's game against Northern Districts at Whangarei which starts on Thursday.

"Hopefully they pull up [well] and are good to go," Wellington captain Stephen Murdoch said.

"Obviously Luke's been in great form for us but he's got aspirations to play for the Black Caps as well and we hope he comes up well and it's not too serious for him."

More information should be available today, but the initial indications weren't great. Rather than celebrate Ronchi's misfortune and the winning opportunity it presented his side, Auckland captain Gareth Hopkins was quick to console his fellow wicketkeeper.

Wellington had been 177 for six when Ronchi pulled up and looked to be pacing their chase fairly well. But once he went the Firebirds shut up shop and were pretty content to grind out the draw, Murdoch said.

The other decisive moment had come about eight overs earlier when opener Josh Brodie was given out in dubious circumstances. The scorebook said he went leg before wicket to Michael Bates for 86, although the Firebirds weren't exactly sure.

"I believe he was caught behind. There is a little bit of confusion about that, but the word I'm getting was that he was caught behind," Murdoch said.

"It was one of those decisions that on another day could've gone our way and certainly would've helped our chances."

Not that Wellington could say they were totally hard done by. They were soon five for two after Murdoch and Michael Papps both went for nought, while there was the curious decision to bat Luke Woodcock ahead of Ronchi.

Woodcock made 26 from 51 balls but really laboured at times. At one point Hopkins, whose maths was a little inaccurate, loudly praised Woodcock when he made it to 13, telling everyone it was "off 50 balls".

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The fact Wellington had an achievable target to go for was down to opening bowler Mark Gillespie.

His second innings haul of six for 83 gave him a career-best match analysis of 11 for 149, from just over 60 overs of toil.

Wellington batted for only about 160 overs in the match, meaning Gillespie had to bowl every day and he led his team's young attack admirably.

He's now taken 35 wickets in the Plunket Shield this season and couldn't be completely discounted as a potential test bowler, especially given that the durable Chris Martin broke down yesterday.

- The Dominion Post

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