Otago Volts v Central Stags at University of Otago Oval, Dunedin, 15-18 November 2017
RESULT: Central Stags beat Otago Volts by two wickets.
Points from this round: Central Stags 18, Otago Volts 8
Batting bonus points: Otago Volts 4 (maximum achieved), Central Stags 4 (maximum achieved)
Bowling bonus points: Central Stags 2 (completed), Otago Volts 4 (maximum achieved)
Any plans Otago Volts skipper Rob Nicol had for a declaration went out the dressing room window as pace bowler Adam Milne and spinner Ajaz Patel teamed up to rip though the last five Volts wickets in the first half hour, rolling the hosts for 177 after they had been 161 for five.
Quick action this morning! 5️⃣WICKETS☝☝☝☝☝for @AdamMilne19 as he smashes up the furniture then 5️⃣WICKETS☝☝☝☝☝ for spinner @AjazP too! @OtagoVolts 177 all out: we need 332 today to win #WormTurns #PlunketShield🔰 #LoveTheStags🦌 pic.twitter.com/IhCQ6s7QTX— Central Stags 🏏 (@CentralStags) November 17, 2017
Both men collected five-wicket bags, Patel's the 11th of his first-class career (5-68) while Milne's was just his second bag in 17 appearances for the Stags (5-64).
It quickly simplified the day's equation to 332 to win for the Stags with most of the final day to get them, if their experienced batting line-up could match the respectable home attack.
However, the hosts rejoiced in removing both openers relatively smartly, Jacob Duffy and Neil Wagner picking off one each in successive overs, Stags captain and Ross Taylor now forming a fresh combo with a further 306 required.
By lunch they had chopped that target down to 252, Taylor raising their 50-stand. He was still there at tea, and Young (stumped on 83) had only just departed after their 166-run stand put the Stags in pole position.
Jesse Ryder had joined Taylor on 89* and now they required just 125 from the final session, but calamity would strike after the break in the form of two Jacob Duffy in-swingers, bowling both Taylor (90) and scoreless Tom Bruce in the space of three deliveries and leaving Ryder and Dane Cleaver with a mission to settle the dust down.
Ryder played the steady hand while a confident Cleaver looked to attack, surviving a good shout along the way to racing to a half century off just 38 balls, his third half century in five innings this season; but his wicket soon after gave the Volts one last breath of hope.
Wagner created pressure in the last hour before Duffy trapped Adam Milne to have the Stags seven down while still requiring 40 to win, 12.2 overs remaining in the match.
Ryder remained, but he was running out of partners. Navin Patel, his teammate in the New Zealand Indoor World Cup team just a few months earlier, eased the pressure with a couple of awkward but effective boundaries off a frustrated Wagner. With eight overs remaining, Patel did it again, this time pinching two fours off Duffy as the tension eased.
Patel would fall on a run-a-ball 26, but his cameo meant the damage was done. The flurry of late wickets from Duffy saw him claim a pyrrhic five-wicket bag of his own, but he then had to watch as Ajaz Patel helped himself to the winning boundary to complement his own 11th first-class five-for earlier in the day, Ryder unbeaten on 31 and edging ahead as the season's top run-getter after playing an important role holding the back end of the chase together.
The Stags now head home to Saxton Oval for a top-of-the-table clash with the Wellington Firebirds next week, the only other unbeaten team in the competition. The Volts will meanwhile host cellar dwellers Northern Districts as first-class cricket returns to Alexandra's Molyneux Park. Entry to all Plunket Shield cricket is free.
As the Dunner stunners dissipated into damp morning gloom, play was delayed by an hour and the deck temporarily freshened as the teams headed into moving day.
Ross Taylor and Will Young would eventually get to tick off their 50-stand for the third wicket with the first boundary of the morning, but that's where the partnership ended as Jacob Duffy sidled in next over for his first wicket, Taylor squeezing the ball to slip on 34.
Jesse Ryder joined skipper Young as the Stags chased the Volts' hefty first innings total, and the pair knuckled down against a testing hour of pace, showing the necessary patience against the revved-up seamers. Ryder helped himself to a typically brutal six once Mark Craig re-entered the attack, while Tom Bruce spanked a couple off part-time spin twin Kitchen shortly before lunch, in his first bat of the season for the Stags.
Craig had picked up Young's wicket on 37, but the Stags were now scoring more freely, and by lunch Ryder was on the cusp of both his own fifty, and a fifty-stand with Bruce. He would be undone shortly after the break while Bruce would press on to equal Greg Hay's 57 as the top score of the innings — before triggering a landslide of five wickets that saw the visitors' late order bundled out by tea.
A stinging catch held by Michael Rae at point had been responsible for Bruce's fall and while it had been a solid slog from the Stags' top six, they had lost those last five for just 41 runs against the new ball, both teams picking up maximum bonus points from the innings, but with the Stags still lagging the Volts to the tune of 154 runs. The Volts' attack had likewise operated as a team, the wickets shared with hard-working Duffy picking up a three-for after dislodging the dangerous duo of Dane Cleaver and Adam Milne late in proceedings.
The Volts then set about growing their lead in the final session, Hamish Rutherford and Jimmy Neesham both punishing anything short, which with Milne's pace produced some spectacular hook and pull shots for six.
Rutherford had been looking comfortable after galloping to 39, but was trapped by Ajaz Patel after the Volts had already lost both openers in quick succession. The three wickets tumbled in consecutive overs as the Volts careered from 65/0 to 66/3, before new men Neil Broom and Neesham locked together for a 68-run stand for the fourth wicket.
It was interrupted by a lengthy evening break for poor light, and after play resumed, the clock now ticking towards half past six in the only remaining live game of the round, Broom was trapped by Milne on 30, then Neesham bowled by Patel the following over.
Now the Volts were 142 for five with a lead of 296, six overs left to negotiate in the fading day. The fresh pairing of Kitchen and de Boorder took that past 300 before stumps as George Worker joined Patel to hunt for a handy extra wicket, but the Volts not only made it through safely, but Kitchen added a straight six off a full Worker delivery in the last over to take a 315-run lead into the decisive day tomorrow.
Overnight batsmen Anaru Kitchen and Derek de Boorder both reached their half centuries for the Volts, ticking off a 100-run stand for the sixth wicket inside the first half hour of play. Kitchen, however, would become Adam Milne's third victim of the innings just as the 110-over cut-off loomed, raising the Stags' hopes of a third bowling bonus point.
With de Boorder on 68*, the sixth-wicket stand had ended on 120 runs, Mark Craig now charged with helping keep the Stags attack in check.
By lunch de Boorder had stormed ahead to an unbeaten 106, having posted the three figures for his fourth first-class century by launching into a six off Ajaz Patel.
Just a few balls earlier he'd lost partner Mark Craig to a Tom Bruce caught and bowled, but was seemingly unrattled as Neil Wagner joined him at the crease to get the Volts to a commanding 455 for seven at the interval.
Wagner put Bruce to the ropes to bring up the Volts 500 when play resumed for the middle session, shortly after which the hosts declared at 513 for seven, de Boorder undefeated on 140, just six runs below his career best.
Stags openers George Worker and Greg Hay then continued the solid form they had shown together in Christchurch in the previous round, steadily building an unbroken century stand for the first wicket, George Worker posting the Stags' 100 and his own fifty with the same stroke to the boundary.
Hay's half century followed next over, but when the tally reached 113 he would be the first to depart, caught as Neil Wagner came back into the attack to tempt him angling across.
Stags captain Will Young joined Worker with a dozen overs remaining in the Dunedin evening. He had no sooner got there than Worker left, adjudged caught behind as Wagner struck again off his next over: from 113/0 to 114/2, now with two new batsmen at the crease.
However, Ross Taylor quickly got off the mark in his first Plunket Shield appearance in two years and by stumps was just a single away from a 50-stand with Stags captain Will Young for the third wicket.
Hamish Rutherford’s 11th first-class century was the home town highlight as the Otago Volts recovered from a wobbly start against a stellar Stags side featuring its returning BLACKCAPS.
Volts captain Rob Nicol opted to bat first, backing his experienced line-up to handle the pace of Adam Milne in the visiting attack, but it was canny Stags paceman Nav Patel who broke through first, removing opener Brad Wilson in just the fourth over of the morning.
Nicol himself would soon follow, a victim of Milne’s gathering pace, but from 19 for two Rutherford and new partner Neil Broom settled in to build a restorative 111-run stand for the third wicket.
The return of Milne into the attack broke the dangerous partnership but by tea the Volts were in an altogether happier position at 212 for four, Rutherford having raised his bat twice.
Rutherford continued on well into the third session until spinner Ajaz Patel finally convinced him to chop one on to his castle on 142 (20 x 4).
Broom would miss out on a half century when he misjudged Milne’s pace, but by stumps both Anaru Kitchen and Derek de Boorder were in sight of theirs, both unbeaten on 46 in an unbroken 65-run stand for the sixth wicket.
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