CENTRAL STAGS defeated the OTAGO VOLTS by an innings and five runs
McLean Park, Napier
1-4 March 2019
First innings bonus points
Bowling: Otago Volts 0 (completed); Central Stags 4 (maximum achieved)
Batting: Central Stags 4 (maximum achieved); Otago Volts 1 (completed)
Total points this round: Central Stags 20, Otago Volts 1
The Central Stags will head into the penultimate round of the Plunket Shield this Saturday back in charge of the points table after regaining the lead from the Auckland Aces in the sixth of eight rounds in the 2018/19 season. The defending champion Stags had entered Round Six having dropped two points off the lead, but got their campaign back on track with an innings victory over the winless Volts, while the Aces were held to a draw in Whangarei. The match was Otago Volts captain Jacob Duffy's 50th appearance for the visitors.
Wickets bookending the first session, the Volts found themselves up against a green tide on the final morning in Napier as the Stags collected the full 20 points. However, a stubborn last-wicket partnership would almost deny the Stags a straightforward innings victory, as the southerners refused to go down without a fight.
Following on with nine wickets in hand, a danger sign had gone up first over of the day with Stags spinner Ajaz Patel opening the proceedings with a wicket maiden. Removing Josh Tasman-Jones with his final delivery on another bright, sunny morning, Patel was eyeing up cracks in the wicket as he bowled from the Marine Parade end of the ground.
Hamish Rutherford (63*) was joined by Mitch Renwick second over of the day, but would lose another three partners in succession before Rutherford himself fell just before the lunch break.
Having just reached 99* courtesy of four misfields, Rutherford suffered the double disappointment of being caught on 99, Will Young accepting the catch for Ben Wheeler's first wicket.
It was the biggest breakthrough of the session, even of the day, the quality opening batsman having batted for almost six hours. His loss left the Volts still trailing by 130 runs, following on, and now with just four wickets in hand for the last two sessions.
Ajaz Patel would put himself in line for a five-wicket bag with a double-wicket maiden taking the Volts to nine down, and four wickets in his kit bag. However, Nathan Smith found a willing tailend partner in Warren Barnes, the pair holding out for almost another hour — by which time the Volts' deficit was chipped down to single figures.
Just as it appeared the Central Stags opening batsmen would have to contemplate padding up again, Doug Bracewell finally got the elusive wicket, shortly before 3.30pm in the afternoon. Smith was left unbeaten after a well controlled 75*, while number eleven Barnes had contributed a career-best 34 to the Volts' second-innings total of 335 in their last-wicket stand of 73.
For the Stags at their home fortress of McLean Park, maximum points was just what they had needed after having entered this round two points behind the Aces, who meanwhile had drawn with ND in Whangarei. The Stags will return to McLean Park on Saturday where they will face Northern Districts in the penultimate round, their last home match of the summer before heading into the final round against the same opponents in Hamilton.
The Otago Volts were forced to follow on, still trailing by 340, early in the middle session after the Central Stags cut short their first innings just six runs short of what would have been the Volts' second batting bonus.
The Volts had fought back with Nathan Smith (45) and Matt Bacon (43) providing some resistance, however, the Stags would haul in the full net of eight bonuses, in their quest to reclaim the Plunket Shield lead from the Aces in this round.
Blair Tickner (below) created the early excitement during the fine, sunny morning session, racing to 4-25, but ultimately denied a second first-class career five-for at his happy home hunting ground. Doug Bracewell replaced him at the railway end and set about collecting 3-41.
Seth Rance picked up a brace, and spinner Ajaz Patel accounted for the remaining victim. Tickner would strike again during the afternoon, claiming the sole second-innings Volts wicket to fall. Cam Hawkins had just reached his half century, but departed caught by Will Young on Nelson's. From 111 for one, the Volts made it through to stumps without further loss, set to resume their second dig on the last day at 124 for one (Hamish Rutherford unbeaten on 63*) still trailing by 216 runs.
The Otago Volts were three down by stumps on a cool, overcast second day at McLean Park. The change in the weather and innings were no doubt both welcome by the visitors after the best part of two days chasing leather.
With all three of the Central Stags having scored centuries — on the same day as the BLACKCAPS achieved the same feat in the Test match in Hamilton, the Stags had declared eight down at 584.
Having reached three figures early in the morning session, first drop Will Young had just celebrated posting his 150 and was in sight of a first-class career best when he was dismissed in the same over after lunch, while Dane Cleaver threatened to make it four centuries in an innings with his breezy 83 at better than run-a-ball pace before he became Michael Rippon's fourth and final victim of the innings.
Young's 150 was his seventh first-class century and sixth for the Central Stags in Plunket Shield cricket.
The day saw an unusual interruption of play with a domestic house fire two streets away, on Riverbend Road, causing acrid smoke to blow across the ground during the latter stages of the Stags' innings, pausing play for 20 minutes.