*ND's first match of the season post Alert Level Restrictions, with ability for rounds to be made up at end of scheduled season
NORTHERN DISTRICTS v CANTERBURY
Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui
15-18 November 2021
Toss: ND who batted
Total points this match
Northern Districts 4
Brett Randell - first-class career best bowling (ND, previous best 3-50)
Joe Carter - 3000 first-class career runs
ND GOT UNDERWAY AT LAST. All images : PHOTOSPORT
A few morning showers lurking about added to the tension on both sides as Northern Districts turned up on the third day needing two wickets whilst Canterbury needed to chase down 59 runs in a match that could so easily have gone either way.
The last recognised Canterbury batsman, Cam Fletcher, had resumed on 32* with Will Williams 7* (below) and the pair was resolute under pressure.
First they guided Canterbury past the 200-mark - the first time either side had got that far in this match; and then to a 50-run stand for the ninth.
The Northern attack needed to keep the pressure on, but didn't help themselves with a flurry of no balls, particularly from Colin de Grandhomme as the equation got ever tighter.
The Canterbury pair meanwhile chipped away patiently, until the required runs got down to single figures just before high noon.
In the 68th over, Williams snicked four byes off Zak Gibson: now just three more runs were needed for a remarkable victory to maintain Canterbury's unbeaten status this season. He turned the strike over to Fletcher next ball for the dependable wicketkeeper-batsman to do the honours.
Fletcher finished it off unbeaten on 56* in a 73*-run unbroken stand for the ninth with Williams - by far the highest partnership of the entire match, a two-wicket victory for the defending champions with more than five sessions to spare.
For ND, it was back to the drawing board while Canterbury's defence remained right on track with their third outright from their four pre-Christmas rounds of the Plunket Shield.
Another hectic day of cricket saw early competition leaders Canterbury suddenly staring down the barrel inside just two days of the four-dayer at Bay Oval.
The day had begun with ND paceman Brett Randell (above) unlucky not to go on to his maiden Plunket Shield bag, instead finishing the first innings with a career-best haul of 4-32 after Zak Gibson picked up the last Canterbury wicket (and indeed, Gibson (below) had taken the last two).
The visitors had been rolled for just 82 in 31 overs: one of Canterbury's lowest ever first-class totals against ND, and a lead to ND of 105 on the first dig.
The second innings for both sides would see no slowing down in this match. For, rather remarkably, Northern Districts would be seven down already by lunch!
Wicketkeeper-batsman Peter Bocock was at the crease by then, the scoreboard again grim reading at 97/7.
He would scrabble a few more runs after the break, but would soon be run out for the hosts' top score of 28, having survived out there for almost an hour and half.
ND's tail chimed in with a few more runs to get up to 123 before Ed Nuttall took the last wicket in just the 45th over. So, Canterbury would need just 228 to win - but in the context of this fast-paced match, that looked anything but a foregone conclusion.
Matt Henry had done the damage with the ball the second time around, finishing with 4-46, including both openers. Will Williams backed up with 3-24 while Nuttall had taken another brace.
But by the last session, they would be padded up, waiting nervously to bat.
Canterbury had been in a relatively good spot at tea, contextually speaking - with Ken McClure and Cole McConchie (34) both having got a start, and taking their side to 49/2.
McClure, fresh off an impressive century in the previous match at the Basin, was opening and had lost partners Chad Bowes and Harry Chamberlain in swift succession - both to the rampant Randell - before his captain arrived to help steady the ship.
But Randell and Zak Gibson would once again take a wrecking ball to the innings through the third session, until Canterbury was eight down and still needing a lofty 73 runs for victory.
And yet, hope still hadn't entirely departed for the visitors still had Cam Fletcher in the middle at 156/8. And a Canterbury victory was not out of sight. The composed Fletcher had fought for two hours for his 26* when Will Williams (first-class high score: 38) strode out to meet him in the 44th over.
Fletcher would make it through the session, unbeaten on 32* by stumps and holding the key to Canterbury's fortunes on the third morning with just 59 runs needed now if Canterbury were to snatch a win out of the hat.
After having sat out the first three weeks of the summer due to regional COVID-19 Alert Level restrictions, Northern Districts set about making up for lost time with a fast-paced and dramatic entrance to the 2021/22 Plunket Shield championship.
Hosting early leaders Canterbury - who meanwhile had a draw and two outrights under the belt - at a windy and warm Bay Oval, Northern Districts captain Joe Carter won the first toss of his summer and asked the visitors to bowl on a day that would see a remarkable 19 wickets tumble.
Canterbury restricted ND to what seemed a modest total of 187, but by the day's end they would be well and truly on the back foot in the first innings.
Dangerman Carter, one of the standout batsmen of last summer, played a pivotal role in getting his side off to a decent beginning and was left unbeaten on 74* even as his team collapsed around him during their first innings of the season.
Canterbury had used only four bowlers, with all four pacemen picking up wickets and Henry Shipley again having a good day with the ball, finishing as the pick with 4-26 off just 12.3 overs.
Will Williams picked up 3-51 and Ed Nuttall a brace.
However, by stumps Canterbury had suffered a similar fate on the hectic day - and they still trailed their hosts by a fair margin of 109 runs overnight, with just one wicket remaining after 30.3 overs of calamity.
Opener Chad Bowes' 25 was their paltry best score of the afternoon, while Brett Randell was in the wickets for ND.
Needless to say ND and Canterbury both took the full set of four first-innings bowling points from the fast-paced exchange, but wresting some advantage on the second day would be key if Canterbury were to gain some advantage and avoid a possible first defeat of the season.