For a competition that rewarded consistency, the Ford Trophy final sure had a surprising amount of twists and turns.

With 36 players having missed significant time in the one-day competition due to international call-ups, last year's cellar dwellers - Otago and Wellington - found themselves in the final, largely thanks to having minimal disruption to their lineups.

It was a final that was anything but routine though, as Wellington blew a massive advantage, then had to eventually battle back from adversity themselves, eventually claiming a three-wicket win with eight balls to spare.

Such a tight result seemed inconceivable when Otago were in tatters at 57-7, having opted to bat first at Dunedin's University Oval.


After Ollie Newton had taken the top off the Otago order, Hamish Bennett ripped through the middle order, taking three wickets in four balls, and making an early finish seem inevitable.

Hamish Bennett celebrates his three wickets in four balls. Photo / Photosport
Hamish Bennett celebrates his three wickets in four balls. Photo / Photosport

But Otago are a strange side. Arguably their best batsman – Michael Rippon – batted at number seven, while their number nine - Christi Viljoen – has a superior batting record than Otago's openers.

Even so, when the pair met at the crease after just 15 overs, nobody could have expected what came next, with Rippon and Viljoen combining for the biggest eighth wicket stand in New Zealand domestic one-day history.

The Dutch and Namibian internationals added 146 in 32 overs of graft, with Rippon crafting 82, and Viljoen blasting them home to finish with the highest score by a number nine in NZ one-day cricket – 87 not out.

Somehow, the hosts had reached 234-8, and when they reduced Wellington to a crisis of their own, at 75-5, their path to a first one-day title in 11 years suddenly seemed wide open.

It was a path made possible by the bizarre but true fact that the best domestic franchise usually doesn't win the Ford Trophy. With all of New Zealand's international hopefuls absent on Black Caps and New Zealand A duty, it punished the provinces that produce the top talent.

Central Districts (10 players unavailable), Northern Districts (10) and Canterbury (seven) were pillaged and suffered as a result, and it was no surprise that the two teams least affected by call-ups - Wellington (three) and Otago (one) – contested the final.

However, that unusual reality gives a chance for players to gain experience, and Wellington needed some of their less heralded players to see them home after their top order failed.


The dangerous Devon Conway was back in the pavilion for 12, and Rippon had removed the former Otago duo of Michael Bracewell and Jimmy Neesham, leaving lots to do for the last of Wellington's recognised batsman.

Fortunately for Malcolm Nofal and Peter Younghusband, there was little run-rate pressure for them to deal with, and they slowly and surely rebuilt the innings, putting Wellington finally back into a winning position. Younghusband made 49 from 78 balls, adding 118 with Nofal, who pushed on to make 73 before both fell to the bowling of Jacob Duffy.

Nofal's dismissal left Wellington needing 23 runs from 22 balls with just three wickets remaining, giving Otago hope of ending their trophy drought.

However, Lauchie Johns and Newton were up to the task, scampering singles – while narrowly avoiding several run-out opportunities – before cashing in on loose deliveries.

Viljoen couldn't repeat his batting heroics with the ball, with Newton smacking him for four to secure the winning runs, and Wellington's first one-day title in five seasons.