Luke Ronchi played drought-breaker for the Wellington Firebirds in Mount Maunganui today.
The Black Caps limited-overs wicketkeeper-batsman struck the winning runs to give his side the Ford Trophy one-day title over the Northern Knights and end a barren 10-year stint without a domestic cricket title for the side from the capital.
Ronchi struck consecutive fours off the first two balls of the final over bowled by Scott Kuggeleijn to get the visitors home with four balls and four wickets to spare in a tense encounter that saw both sides falter when seemingly on top.
Wellington looked likely to chase down Northern’s tally off 232 for nine off 50 overs with some ease, but almost stalled until Ronchi, batting at number seven, made an unbeaten 41 off only 32 balls, including six boundaries.
Wellington skipper James Franklin rode his luck to contribute a vital 75 off 87 deliveries to play his part in the triumph.
Opener Michael Pollard gave Wellington a sound foundation to their chase as Knights captain Daniel Flynn constantly rotated his varied bowling armoury.
Franklin was given a life on eight when Jono Boult spilt a relatively simple catch at long leg when the former NZ representative top-edged a hook off Graeme Aldridge – the competition’s most prolific wicket-taker in its history.
Trent Boult trapped Pollard lbw for 43 off 79 balls to give the hosts hope, and Franklin was again fortunate to stay at the crease when it appeared Black Caps test leg-spinner Ish Sodhi had him leg before on 24, but umpire Derek Walker rejected the appeal. Franklin perished when his side needed 17 off the last 14 balls, but Ronchi took over the mantle of match-winner.
Left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner took 2-35 off 10 overs for the hosts, who used seven bowlers but couldn’t quite find the magical formula to stop Wellington short.
The Wellington bowlers dictated early proceedings after Flynn won the toss before the Knights innings was given impetus and substance by Brad Wilson and BJ Watling, with the pairon a century stand for the third wicket.
Watling survived a chance when he edged left-arm spinner Luke Woodcock past NZ wicketkeeping rival Ronchi when on 21 in the 20th over, and had another close shave soon after when inside-edging off-spinner Jeetan Patel just past his leg stump.
Wilson was solid as the hosts looked to have seen off the twin spin threat until Watling perished to Patel in the over after he brought up his half-century.
The NZ test keeper-batsman made 50 off 65 deliveries as he and Wilson put on 104 for the third wicket. Wilson got to 67 off 93 deliveries before he fell to Woodcock in the first over of the second batting powerplay.
Santner looked like he was going to lead the Knights to a healthy total, accelerating through the latter overs with 44 off 38 balls, featuring four fours and the innings’ solitary six.
But his dismissal in the 46th over sparked an awful collapse for the hosts, who lost five wickets for 14 runs in four overs which ultimately proved hugely costly.
Former ND stalwart Arnel took 3-30 off his 10 overs for the Firebirds, while Gillespie also profited from some smart bowling at the death to end with 3-46.
Ford Trophy final
Northern Knights vs Wellington Firebirds
Bay Oval, Mt Maunganui
AP Devcich lbw Arnel 5
DR Flynn c Blundell b Gillespie 12
BS Wilson c & b Woodcock 68
BJ Watling c Woodcock b Patel 50
DJ Mitchell c Elliott b Gillespie 30
MJ Santner st Ronchi b Patel 44
SC Kuggeleijn b Arnel 0
JJ Boult b Gillespie 1
IS Sodhi b Arnel 1
TA Boult not out 2
GW Aldridge not out 7
Extras (lb 4, wd 8, nb 0) 12
Total (for 9 wickets, 50.0 overs) 232
Fall: 11, 29, 133, 153, 211, 212, 216, 223, 223
Bowling: BJ Arnel 9-0-30-3 (1w), MR Gillespie 10-2-46-3 (1w), LJ Woodcock 10-0-44-1, GD Elliott 7-0-42-0 (1w), JS Patel 10-0-45-2, JEC Franklin 4-0-21-0 (1w).
MA Pollard lbw T Boult 43
MHW Papps c Watling b Kuggeleijn 14
SJ Murdoch c Santner b Sodhi 16
JEC Franklin c Mitchell b J Boult 75
TA Blundell c Aldridge b Santner 9
GD Elliott b Santner 22
L Ronchi not out 41
LJ Woodcock not out 2
Extras (b 3, lb 2, wd 4, nb 2) 11
Total (for 6 wickets, 49.2 overs) 233
Fall: 29, 73, 100, 124, 166, 216
Bowling: TA Boult 9-0-53-1 (1w, 1nb), AP Devcich 5-0-24-0 (1w, 1nb), MJ Santner 10-2-35-2, SC Kuggeleijn 7.2-1-40-1, IS Sodhi 10-0-41-1, GW Aldridge 4-0-17-0, JJ Boult 4-0-18-1 (1w).
Wellington won by four wickets
– © Fairfax NZ News