Canterbury take control of Firebirds on day one

A fiery late spell of fast bowling from Hamish Bennett and a beautifully calm innings from Tom Latham has put Canterbury into a completely dominant position after a bizarre first day in their Plunket Shield match with Wellington in Rangiora.

At 38-4 earlier in the day, after winning the toss and batting, Canterbury could only have dreamed of such a position.

But Latham's class, a lethal spell from Bennett - easily the best of the season according to his coach Gary Stead - and excellent support from Logan van Beek flipped the game on its head.

Wellington are reeling at 27-6 in reply to Canterbury's 223.

You could be forgiven for thinking it was a green seamer at Rangiora. It wasn't, just a mixture of good bowling, poor batting and the odd bit of variable bounce.

''It's a pretty flat wicket'' Latham acknowledged. ''We were pretty disappointed with 223, there were a lot of soft dismissals, but to come out and take six-for in an hour is phenomenal. Logan and Hamish have done an absolutely fantastic job.''

Canterbury's top order failed with the exception of Latham, whose nicely crafted innings shone brightly on an otherwise gloomy day for the batsmen. He remained calm amid the early carnage around him and his excellent 92 - along with a gritty 40 from skipper Andrew Ellis - dragged the hosts past 200.

It was still a sub-par score but a fired up Bennett and van Beek ran through the top order at breakneck speed.

Bennett knocked over Michael Pollard for a duck, nicked out Grant Elliott and James Franklin then trapped Luke Ronchi in front first ball.
Van Beek found Stephen Murdoch's edge to give Rob Nicol a second catch at slip and also nicked out Jeetan Patel.

Latham, like everyone, was at a loss to explain how 16 wickets fell. The Rangiora track was slower and lower than expected but it didn't offer much to the bowlers; there was variable bounce and run-scoring often looked tricky, Latham being the exception once again.

Ellis, captaining his province for the first time in first-class cricket and becoming the 74th Cantabrian to do so, got the first bit right; he won the toss and quite rightly chose to bat.

Returning quick Mark Gillespie took just seven balls to notch his 300th wicket for Wellington, trapping Nicol in front for a duck. Dean Brownlie, Shanan Stewart and Henry Nicholls all followed quickly as Gillespie and in particular Andy McKay got a head of steam up.

Wicketkeeper Brad Cachopa joined Latham and the little guys attempted to dig Canterbury out of a massive hole. They survived until lunch and pushed on after, but Cachopa was a tad late on a shot and had his off stump knocked over by McKay for 27, having put on 83 with Latham for the fifth wicket.

Latham's knock had a touch of class; he drove elegantly through the covers, was tidy off his pads and severe on the short and wide stuff.

A third first-class century looked a mere formality but the 21-year-old left-hander drove at one from McKay that probably wasn't there to do so and had his off stump rocked back.

Still, having narrowly missed out on a test spot in Dunedin this week, his innings was a timely reminder to the selectors; if they want to look to the future, he's their man.

"It was nice to get some runs, it was my first first-class game for a while," Latham said. "But as a batter you always want more and it was disappointing to get out softly when 100 wasn't far away."

Play in the first day of the other two matches, between Auckland and Central Districts in Auckland and Northern Districts and Otago in Whangarei, was washed out.

Fairfax Media