Sunny day, gloomy outlook for Firebirds

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 05:00 20/12/2012

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There was bad news and worse news for Wellington in the Karori Park sun yesterday.

Word filtered through that their imported all-rounder Chris Woakes, currently resting a minor groin strain, had been summoned to England's one-day squad to tour India next month and will farewell the Firebirds after their Boxing Day Twenty20 match.

And that was before the carnage unfolded on an idyllic third day of the Plunket Shield match against Northern Districts.

Centurymaker Luke Ronchi excepted, Wellington's batsmen largely looked like they were still batting in the fog that enveloped the ground on Tuesday.

At stumps on day three the Firebirds were staring defeat in the face at 204-6 in their second innings, a lead of seven after ND enforced the follow-on.

Twelve Wellington wickets tumbled yesterday on a still decent batting pitch. Without Ronchi's breathtaking double of 113 and 62 not out - each at better than a run a ball - the post-match debrief would be well under way.

"Just shot selection was the main thing. They hit good areas at times. Jeets [Patel] played very well and it shows it's still a wicket you can score runs on, and score easily and quickly," Ronchi said.

"But it's starting to turn now and their leggie [Ish Sodhi] got some to really turn. So if we can get a total you just never know."

Scott Kuggeleijn, a centurymaker in last week's win over CD, resumes with Ronchi today, with Patel, Ili Tugaga and Dane Hutchinson to follow with a mighty effort required to deny ND their first win.

"It's not great but we're in front now," Ronchi said. "Cricket's a funny game and if we can get a bit more of a lead and put some pressure on them somehow..."

Indeed, with Ronchi at the crease anything can happen. Across two innings yesterday he hit 26 fours and six sixes, his ninth first-class ton coming up off 90 balls.

Wellington's top order folded twice and are becoming a big collective concern, with Josh Brodie's 38 the only 20-plus score from the recognised batsmen. Jesse Ryder, after a second ball duck on Monday, went after ND's short-pitched offerings and was removed again by Tim Southee, for nine. Southee took 5-69 then had one second innings wicket before he was hampered by a sprained left thumb. Brent Arnel was also a regular threat.

Sodhi (3-58) looks an impressive prospect and was a threat in the late afternoon shadows with turn and bounce. Luke Woodcock battled two hours for his 49 and looked well set before Sodhi turned one through his defences.

Auckland were the big movers yesterday as they dispatched Canterbury by seven wickets, moving to second on the ladder behind Central Districts. Opener Tim McIntosh scored 77 not out as they chased down 219 at Eden Park.

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In Dunedin, CD and Otago look headed for a draw, barring a friendly declaration on today's final day. Mathew Sinclair's 36th first-class century, 142, saw CD to 449 in their first innings, and Otago were 37-1 in their second dig at stumps, a lead of 15.

- The Dominion Post

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