CENTRAL STAGS v CANTERBURY
10-13 October 2018
RESULT: Central Stags won by 145 runs
Total points this round:
Central Stags 16
What a difference a day makes. After the grey, glum washouts of the previous two days, Canterbury and the Central Stags arrived to clear blue skies and fresh spring snow on the mountains. The Tasman skies were so clear that frost had covered the wicket block at 7am, play on this final day of the first round delayed until 11am as the last of the damp dried off.
When finally players streamed back on to the field, 21-year-old Willem Ludick — who had sat on 80* for the past three days, was back on for a maiden century at his home ground, in just his second Plunket Shield appearance. More to the point for his team, the goal was one more valuable bonus point if they could get to 350.
Both targets were swiftly achieved. Ludick raised his bat, then slammed his second six of his innings as he and Ryan McCone raced to the fourth bonus point, the Stags adding 51 runs in just 6.3 overs. Captain Greg Hay immediately called them in, the young South Africa-raised Nelsonian having played a mature hand for his unbeaten 116 (184 balls, including 11 fours and two sixes).
With time of the essence if there was to be a result, Canterbury captain Cole McConchie then elected to forfeit Canterbury's first innings and, with 353 runs already on the tins, the Stags also forfeited their second innings: a double declaration, setting Canterbury a target of 353 with two and half sessions remaining.
A revved up Doug Bracewell immediately proved a handful for Canterbury as he opened the attack with Seth Rance. Bracewell struck twice in the seventh over, the first of three double wicket maidens in the innings as BLACKCAP Tom Latham was caught off a nonchalant prod, followed by scoreless Stephen Murdoch four balls later as he rued leaving a ball that went on to summarily connect with his off-stump, knocking it out of the ground.
Henry Nicholls and Chad Bowes were together at 12 for two, Bracewell heading to lunch on fine figures of 8-5-9-2. When 19-year-old spinner Felix Murray struck again immediately after the break, opener Bowes caught by Ryan McCone on 29, Canterbury at 61 for three lost their early momentum and the complexion of the chase changed as the required run rate began inching up towards run-a-ball.
The Murray/McCone combo struck again just as Henry Nicholls (43) looked in sight of a half century, a big second wicket for the young tweaker on his home ground. Canterbury was now 95 for four, and still another 258 needed. The wickets continued to fall in pairs: Rance would contribute two double wicket maidens en route to the first five-wicket bag of summer, picking up where he left off in the last round last season and showing him to be fully recovered from his back injury that ended that summer.
The Stags strongman broke through in the 47th with the wickets of Ken McClure — a third grab for McCone whose influence on the match was steadily growing — and Cameron Fletcher, bowled for no score four balls later with Canterbury still 250 runs shy and going to tea firmly on the back foot at 125 for six.
Matt Henry was struck on the helmet early in the last session, to McCone's dismay. Despite hitting the deck, Henry appeared to quickly rebound from the blow, but was bowled by Rance in the following over. Canterbury's 130/7 then became 130/8 in the blink of an eye as Rance struck again by trapping van Woerkom.
When Rance took out obstinate captain McConchie in his next over, his sixth first-class bag was complete, and the Stags stood just one last wicket away from the win.
Remarkably, after such an action-packed few hours, that last wicket — worth 12 points — would be elusive for the next 27 overs, until only one over remained in the day. New Stags captain Greg Hay had kept strike men Rance and Bracewell in the mixer but the hunt was initially fruitless. When the wicket would not come, he brought in the field even closer and turned to Murray, part-time leggie Brad Schmulian, Christian Leopard — then Rance again, Bracewell, McCone...
The last Canterbury pair of Will Williams (a career best 28) and Andrew Hazeldine (a career best 41, above) had made it to a 76-run partnership, threatening the 10th wicket record between the two sides that had stood since the late 1950s. After 25.5 overs together, now they had just seven balls to see off if they were to deny the Stags a win and stop the defending champions from stealing a march on the points table.
The sun beginning to sink, along with the home mood, time was running out for the Stags. And then, with what would always have been his last delivery in the match, McCone struck. As Hazeldine shuddered at the sound of his shattered stumps and turned away despondently, the Stags went up en masse at the realisation of a last gasp victory.
The outright, by 145 runs, sealed a perfect start for hometown captain Greg Hay who admitted he had almost given up hope of a happy outcome; and the perfect finish to a big day for Willem Ludick, all as their depleted side bumped ND down a notch from the official number one slot on overall run rate.
The Stags now go on the road to meet the Aces at Eden Park next week (the hosts expected to have BLACKCAP Martin Guptill in their ranks for round two) while Canterbury will head home to host the other early winner in this round, Northern Districts. Entry to all Plunket Shield cricket is free.
A ditto day as play was abandoned for the day (rain and drizzle). Teams will return tomorrow with Willem Ludick still paused on a career-best 80 not out in the first innings.
Play abandoned for the day (rain). Teams will return tomorrow with Willem Ludick paused on a career best 80 not out.
First day of a new season. New captain. A special day for Greg Hay, leading out his beloved Central Stags just down the road from Richmond where he grew up playing backyard cricket with his brother all those years ago.
First toss, keen to bowl — but ah, no, the coin falls the other way. Sent in.
It’s fresh. Nippy in this early October start. Captain's opening partner is playing his 50th first-class game: Ben Smith. Out, first ball — golden duck, caught behind from a touch off the glove, first over: 1/1.
New captain follows him in shortly afterwards: cue two openers sitting in the Saxton Oval changing room contemplating a less than rosy start to their summer and $60,000 Plunket Shield defence.
So much more could have gone wrong for the Central Stags after having been 3/2, but by the end of the day, a new-look Central Stags side (almost half the regular side on New Zealand A duty in Dubai) had recovered to 301 for seven against a Canterbury side reinforced with BLACKCAPS Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls and Matt Henry.
Henry (above), coming off his outstanding County season for Kent, kept up his wicket-taking ways, the cool cross-breeze licked by a dusting of snow on the alps and chilling steadily as a front slowly moved in from the south.
By stumps he was sitting poised on 4-87, with good support from Will Williams (2-58), but a Canterbury attack rounded out by left-armer Andrew Hazeldine and left-arm spinner Theo van Woerkom had been irritated first by the class of Ross Taylor and later on by a pair of youngsters rallying to put on 92 for the seventh wicket as they both reached maiden half centuries in only their second first-class appearances.
For 21-year-old Napier allrounder Christian Leopard (above), better known for a handful of white-ball cameos, it was his first Plunket Shield match in two years, but he showed good composure in reaching 52 from 100 balls (four boundaries, two sixes) in the last session.
Ten minutes later it was Willem Ludick’s turn to raise his bat for the first time, at his home ground. The impressive former South Africa Under-19s allrounder, also 21 (below), helped progress a tea score of 189 for six to 301/7 at stumps, and will begin day two unbeaten on 80, weather permitting, with the tantalising prospect of a maiden century dangled before his nose if he can scratch together those 20 runs.
Earlier, the sheer class of Taylor and positivity of wicketkeeper-batsman Dane Cleaver — who will have recalled his fifty at the same ground early last summer — helped steady the Stags’ ship, although breakthroughs after lunch and before tea jolted the hosts just as they were wresting control.
Taylor raced to his half century off just 45 balls inside an hour, lighting up the morning session for the home spectators and punching the ball to the fence for his milestone.
Canterbury captain Cole McConchie kept up an attacking field but couldn’t dislodge the big wicket as the Stags went in for lunch at 116/3.
What a difference a break makes. Bang! Bang! Two quick wickets after lunch — Henry knocking over Taylor’s leg pole on 75, then trapping another big wicket in Doug Bracewell, for no score: 127/5.
Cleaver and Ludick formed the new pair with Cleaver reaching 56 off 119 deliveries before his fall brought Leopard to the crease. All up, four half centuries did the recovery job for the hosts on a challenging day that required watchfulness. Meanwhile, Henry showed he could be just as dangerous with a Kookaburra in his hand as with a Duke, setting up a tantalising duel as Ludick looks for those maiden three figures.