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Wellington hold off ND for Plunket Shield

Wellington win Plunket Shield
Wellington claimed the Plunket Shield for the first time since 2019-20. PHOTO: DAVE LINTOTT PHOTOGRAPHY

The unbeaten Wellington Firebirds have been crowned as the 2023-24 national first-class champions after wet weather on the final day in Hamilton prevented any further play as the deciding clash with Northern Districts ended in a draw.

The Firebirds had headed into the last game with a small lead at the top of the table, and maintained a buffer after first innings points calculations, extending the long-running Northern Districts title drought in the four-day format by at least another 12 months.

Otago Volt Dale Phillips finished as the season's top run-scorer after two centuries in his last two matches, with 686 runs at an average of 49.00.

Phillips nudged ahead of Wellington Firebirds top-order man Gareth Severin (657 at 46.93) in his first fully contracted season, both men with two hundreds and five half-centuries from their Plunket Shield summer.

Central Districts captain Greg Hay, who capped off his first-class record with the third highest score of his long career (179) in one of the CD's biggest ever first-class team totals, setting up an innings victory against the Otago Volts in Napier on Wednesday.

Hay signed off as the season's third-highest run-scorer, with 643 runs at 49.46, including two centuries and three half-centuries.

Wellington win Plunket Shield
Wellington players examine the names on the Plunket Shield. PHOTO: DAVE LINTOTT PHOTOGRAPHY

The result saw Central overtake Canterbury for third place, finishing just one point ahead on the table.

Earlier on Wednesday, gloveman Dane Cleaver ticked off one more record for Central, breaking Kruger van Wyk's mark for most wicketkeeping dismissals in a single Plunket Shield season – a competition now with just eight rounds per season, rather than 10 as it was during van Wyk's career.

Cleaver finished with 41 dismissals, helping teammate Liam Dudding along the way to a career-best five-wicket bag on the final afternoon (5-32, among Dudding's eight wickets for the match) as CD concluded their summer with victory by an innings and 40 runs at McLean Park.

The leading wicket-taker for the season was NZC men's domestic player of the season Nathan Smith, the Firebirds allrounder finishing with 33 wickets from seven matches, including two bags, at a lean 17.18 average.

Smith headed off Otago Volt Jacob Duffy (31 wickets from eight games at 24.41) and Northern Districts' Scott Kuggeleijn (30 wickets from just six games at 17.1).


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