CENTRAL STAGS v CANTERBURY
28 October 2018
RESULT: Canterbury won by five wickets
Despite heavy overnight rain, the first match at Pukekura Park this summer got underway without so much as a whisper of a delay — the first of two Ford Trophy games in this season in which Canterbury will visit the pretty Taranaki ground to meet the Central Stags.
Little went right for the Stags on this occasion from the moment captain Doug Bracewell lost the toss, sent in to bat on a pitch that was doing a bit through the first innings, with a tricky bounce.
Overhead conditions were fine, although cool, as Canterbury systematically chipped away at the home line-up after breaking the opening stand in the eighth over.
Opening batsman Greg Hay and lower order allrounder Christian Leopard top-scored for the hosts with just 29 apiece, and Central's problems had been exacerbated by first drop Kieran Noema-Barnett having to retire on 15 when he tweaked a hamstring.
The injury will likely trouble the Central selectors as they look likely to reach into an already bare cupboard for reserves for Round Three this week, Brad Schmulian having dislocated a finger the previous day as he prepared to captain Hawke's Bay.
Noema-Barnett bravely attempted to resume his innings when his side was seven down for 136 — only to be dismissed off the next delivery, putting Will Williams on a hat-trick in the 37th over.
Ryan McCone fended off the hat-trick ball, but Williams was having a field day with a double wicket maiden and collected his career-best in the format with a haul of 4-34, the rest of the attack providing plenty of support as the red and blacks rolled the green machine for just 163, with six overs unspent.
Canterbury knew they would face a challenge of their own in the hour after lunch before the pace of the pitch settled a shade, Stags captain Bracewell making a double breakthrough in his searing opening spell, claiming two wickets in the space for five deliveries (striking in the third and fifth overs) and no run scored off him in between.
He had taken care of the big wicket of Henry Nicholls, caught behind for a duck, but couldn't remove fellow BLACKCAP Tom Latham whose experience and class was to the fore as he steered his side through the remainder of the chase.
With the pitch still favouring the bowling attack and the visitors five down, wickets did keep the Stags in with a sniff.
When Ryan McCone removed Andrew Ellis for just one run, another quick wicket at 116 for five may well have had Canterbury under pressure.
However, it was snuffed out by Latham's unbeaten 73, with Cameron Fletcher's calm support ensuring there was no further disruption to their five-wicket victory with 14 overs in hand.
Canterbury now heads home to Hagley Oval to host leaders the unbeaten Auckland Aces in a big Round Three clash on Wednesday while the Stags will also fly south to their alternate home of Nelson's Saxton Oval where they will meet winless ND in a free-entry match. All matches begin at 11am.