CANTERBURY v NORTHERN DISTRICTS
Total points this round:
Northern Districts 8
ND having declared their second innings at 234 for six for a 384-run lead, Canterbury turned in their best day with the bat as the last remaining live match of the second round went the distance at Hagley Oval.
By tea, opener Jack Boyle was unbeaten with his maiden century in just his second knock of the season, accompanied by Henry Nicholls who had raised a half century via a boundary off part-timer Bharat Popli just before the break.
The pair had fashioned a 136-run partnership for the third wicket, an equation that meant the hosts required 211 further runs for a victory in the last session.
For that to happen, the scoring rate would need to rapidly escalate, yet drawing the match would at least keep Northern Districts from tearing away from Canterbury on the table as all teams jockeyed for position and the early season advantage in the final round before The Ford Trophy begins on Wednesday.
Boyle would be caught off Ish Sodhi in the final session, an outstanding reflex grab from Daryl Mitchell in the slips; when just 15 overs remained.
Nicholls had already departed on 54, likewise snaffled in the slips by the safe hands of Dean Brownlie off Jimmy Baker straight after tea, bringing Ken McClure (who would be forced to retire on 14 after ducking into a Neil Wagner bouncer) and Cole McConchie in at 193 for four.
The pair had almost chalked up the Canterbury 200 when Sodhi had McConchie caught for his second wicket, but unless ND could quickly chip out the remaining wickets, the result was practically written on the wall now, and a draw would keep Northern Districts from joining the Central Stags at the top of the table.
But with just 12.5 overs remaining, Sodhi (below) struck yet again: Matt Henry gone, caught in close, 211 for six now. Suddenly ND was right back in with a sniff.
Sodhi (4-82 after bowling 38 overs) would grab another, and Wagner (3-50), too, to have Canterbury on the ropes, nine down and ND just a breath away from a valuable haul of the full 20 points. However, the last pair of tailenders, Theo van Woerkom (8* off 32 balls) and Fraser Sheat (2* off 14) clung on to deny ND and at least salvage Canterbury's pride in the match as players shook hands for the draw.
Teams now head to The Ford Trophy, the one-day competition starting on Wednesday with ND away to Auckland's Eden Park Outer Oval and Canterbury away to Wellington's Basin Reserve, with the Plunket Shield returning in December.
Northern Districts took a 150-run lead on the first innings after dismissing their hosts for 228 — collecting maximum bonus points from the match that crucially manoeuvred them in a position to challenge the points table leaders.
Wickets had come quickly, Henry Nicholls falling early on day three and Colin de Grandhomme carrying on his exceptional game to strike twice in the space of two overs as he then added Ken McClure to his tally.
Former Firebird Stephen Murdoch settled it down for Canterbury with his first half century for his new team, raising a patient fifty off 131 balls across almost three hours before Zak Gibson had him caught by, you guessed it, de Grandhomme, the big man having a big match.
Canterbury went to lunch at a shaky 167 for five, still with a big job to do to catch ND's first innings. Captain Cole McConchie and Matt Henry put together a useful stand for the seventh wicket, but the middle session again belonged to ND as BLACKCAPS Ish Sodhi and Neil Wagner zeroed in to stop Canterbury's innings on 228, Sodhi celebrating his 150th first-class wicket when he had claimed Andrew Hazeldine.
By tea, ND was 47 for one in reply, veteran captain Daniel Flynn chalking up his 6000th first-class run before losing his wicket on 26 to youngster Fraser Sheat.
Fellow opener Henry Cooper took up the challenge in the final session, however, posting a half century off just 60 rocks.
Canterbury began chipping out wickets and by stumps Cooper, too, was gone as ND headed in at 204 for five: an overall lead of 354 with de Grandhomme and Peter Bocock on starts heading into the final day.
It will be the only match to go the distance in Round Two, with last year'stop two sides the Wellington Firebirds and Central Stags both picking up outrights with a day to spare. Should ND emulate their efforts, they will equal the Stags on points at the right end of the table, and stand a chance of claiming top spot on run rate.
Canterbury will be looking for a big day three from their batsmen after heading into the sheds trailing their visitors by 295.
Northern Districts earlier overcame a tentative, stop-start day one to settle in at the crease and power up for the full four bonus points, Colin de Grandhomme (below) raising his bat for his 12th first-class century - and maiden effort for new team ND in just his second appearance for them.
Shortly after posting his quick century, pelted off just 115 balls (16 boundaries, one six) en route to 115 off 135, BLACKCAP de Grandhomme also rustled up his 5000th first-class run.
Fellow BLACKCAP Ish Sodhi provided the key late order support as the pair chalked up a century stand for the seventh wicket, Sodhi posting an even half century after teammate Daryl Mitchell had narrowly missed out earlier in the day.
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Tom Latham kept Canterbury spirits up with some outstanding work in the slips contributing to his four catches in the innings, however, the BLACKCAP was among the early losses as Jimmy Baker broke through twice before stumps to have Canterbury 83 for two overnight.
In reply to ND's 378 all out, the hosts will be looking for a big day three from their own batsmen today, trailing their visitors by 295 runs on the first innings.
Canterbury batsmen Stephen Murdoch (22*) and Henry Nicholls (36*) both made patient starts, however, and will look to haul their team back into the match on moving day.
After a damp start to the weather-interrupted spring day, play got underway at Christchurch's home of cricket for the first time this season with home captain Cole McConchie winning his second toss on the bounce and showing no hesitation in inserting the northern visitors on a fresh wicket.
ND had lost three of their BLACKCAPS since their first-round win with Kane Williamson, Trent Boult and BJ Watling stepping aside for keeper Peter Bocock and pace pair Zak Gibson and Brett Randell, but they still packed plenty of luminaries in Neil Wagner, Ish Sodhi and Colin de Grandhomme for this trip south as they looked to back up.
Coming into the Canterbury XI for the first time this season, young quick Fraser Sheat made a top start, however, removing both openers - Daniel Flynn and Henry Cooper - inside the first 10 overs for single-figure scores.
From 19 for two, Dean Brownlie and Daryl Mitchell were charged with building a recovery, tea taken late on the afternoon at 74 for two. Brownlie posted his half century off 79 deliveries, including six boundaries, in the last session, and the duo reaching a 100-run stand for the third wicket.
However, just as Brownlie had seemed on course to ride out the afternoon, he was caught off Andrew Hazeldine on 77, Mitchell (39*) unbeaten at stumps with Bharat Popli 8* and set to resume at 141 for three.