Northern Knights have Firebirds on the ropes
A fantastic double from Luke Ronchi failed to have much impact on the Northern Knights' charge to victory in their Plunket Shield match against the Wellington Firebirds in the capital yesterday.
The Wellington wicketkeeper struck an aggressive 113 off 94 balls in his team's first innings and then backed that up later in the day with a brisk unbeaten half century, as the hosts were forced to follow on at Karori Park.
Having brought up his 50 off only 41 balls, Ronchi will resume on 62, having hit 13 fours in his second turn at bat.
A lack of support from his other batsmen in the face of a venomous Northern Districts seam attack has left the hosts on the brink of defeat, leading by just seven runs with six wickets down heading into the fourth and final day.
After day two was completely washed out on Tuesday, the Knights yesterday picked up where they left off on Monday, after a ground delay halted play until noon.
With the hosts in dire straits at 32-4, Brent Arnel struck with just the fifth ball of the day, shattering the stumps of former Hamiltonian Scott Kuggeleijn.
Arnel struck again in his next over, as the Firebirds slumped further to 37-6, before James Marshall ran out Grant Elliott 30 runs later.
It was then that Wellington finally put together some sort of fight, with Ronchi combining with Jeetan Patel to take the home side to 135-7 at lunch as they pummelled Tim Southee and Arnel in the leadup to the break, with Ronchi hitting eight fours and a six in bringing up a half century.
Arnel had Patel out for 35 to end the 102-run stand - which was a Wellington record for the eighth wicket against ND.
Ronchi then smashed his way to a second century for the Plunket Shield season - belting another five fours and three sixes to reach three figures off just 90 balls.
Eventually he was the last man out, falling to Southee - who became just the second ND player to score a century and take five wickets in an innings, following his maiden century on the opening day.
The previous man to achieve that feat was Knights coach Grant Bradburn, also against Wellington, in 2000-01 at the Basin Reserve. Southee finished with 5-69 off 15.2 overs the fifth five-wicket bag of his ND career.
With the Firebirds out for 206 and still trailing by 197 runs after ND's 403-8 declared, it was not a tough decision for Knights captain Brad Wilson to enforce the follow-on.
Arnel struck twice early before Southee, as he did in the first innings, picked up the key wicket of Jesse Ryder - caught by Joseph Yovich for nine.
With his side five down and still 87 behind, Ronchi got down to business again, putting on a quick 70 with Luke Woodcock, who was bowled by young leg-spinner Ish Sodhi for 49 late in the day.