Otago falls short despite heroics

Otago batsman Neil Broom sweeps the ball during a Plunket Shield match against Wellington at the University Oval yesterday. Wellington wicketkeeper Devon Conway watches. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Otago batsman Neil Broom sweeps the ball during a Plunket Shield match against Wellington at the University Oval yesterday. Wellington wicketkeeper Devon Conway watches. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Otago crammed plenty of drama into its sixth consecutive Plunket Shield loss.

This time it was competition frontrunner Wellington which had the measure of Otago by 18 measly runs.

The Volts resumed day four on 62 for two chasing a modest target of 215. But the middle order badly fluffed its lines and all looked lost.

The team needed a hero and two emerged. Firstly Neil Broom got out of his hospital bed and headed down to the University Oval to resume the game.

The 34-year-old had been struck in the neck the day before while fielding in close and came into bat with his side teetering at 106 for six.

He held firm despite nursing a painful injury. But his task went from difficult to impossible when Mark Craig chipped a catch to midwicket, Neil Wagner was trapped in front and Jacob Duffy got run out.

The game, however, had another couple of twists waiting.

No11 Michael Rae, who joined the game on day two as a concussion replacement and turned the match with a devastating spell of bowling on day three, strolled to the crease full of determination.

He shelved his go-to slog over midwicket and defended with real resolve. Broom, meanwhile, manipulated the strike beautifully and the target slowly got closer and closer.

But just when hope had returned, that man Jeetan Patel struck.

The former Black Caps off-spinner took seven wickets in the first innings with a masterful display. He got dip, he got turn and he got the ball under the bat of a distraught Rae to capture his third first-class 10-wicket bag.

The Otago pair had added 40 for the final wicket. Broom was left stranded on 43 and coach Rob Walter was left explaining yet another painful loss.

''It is devastating, really,'' Walter said.

''That last pair got us so close, you start to have some hope. We just didn't get over the line but to be fair it should never have got to that.

''Our middle order played poorly and they should have got us over the line.''

The effort by Broom and Rae ''showed guts and determination which we should have seen a lot more of in the middle order''.

''But I don't know how many overs Patel bowled in the game but he was just relentless in his execution and he certainly had extreme control over the ball.''

Patel finished with 10 for 178 from 70 overs in the match.

After such a wrenching result, the Otago dressing room was understandably subdued post-match. The Volts did put themselves into a position from which they should have won against the leading team in the competition, so there were some positives.

But Walter said the team needed to reflect on the patterns it had fallen into.

''We've been putting ourselves into winning positions but have not been getting across the line. So really it is about us and how we are going to break the cycle.

''We've played a lot of good cricket to get into winning positions but it is about actually delivering on these winning positions.''

Wellington's win has allowed it hold on to top spot with 112 points from Central Districts on 101.

Auckland (80 points) has an outside chance while Northern Districts (53), Otago (48 points) and Canterbury (39 points) are playing for pride.

Otago's next assignment is against Northern Districts in Whangarei starting on Saturday.

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