McLean Park, Napier, 1-4 March 2018
First innings batting bonus points: Otago Volts 2 (completed), Central Stags 0 (completed)
First innings bowling bonus points: Central Stags 4 (maximum achieved), Otago Volts 4 (maximum achieved)
Total points this round: Central Stags 16, Otago Volts 6
Result: Central Stags won by six wickets
- SHA Rance: 4th 5-wicket bag in first-class cricket
- N Wagner: 30th 5-wicket bag in first-class cricket; 16th for Otago Volts
- AY Patel: 12th 5-wicket bag in first-class cricket
- GR Hay: 10th first-class century
Opening batsman Greg Hay carried his bat for almost seven hours as the Central Stags sealed a six-wicket home victory shortly after lunch at McLean Park.
Hay's unbeaten 134 was the Nelson batsman's 10th first-class century, having begun the final day on 79*.
The Stags lost Young, who had knuckled down for more than two and a half hours with Hay for the third wicket, and Jesse Ryder in the morning session, but the Volts had left their run too late with just 24 further runs required at lunch and the sun ensuring batting conditions were now at their best.
Ryder's relatively quick 28 in a 50-run stand with Hay pushed the Stags closer to victory before Jacob Duffy had him caught and bowled, the Stags having headed to lunch at 290 for four with Hay still solid on 128* at the break.
The win means the Stags remain just three points behind leaders the Wellington Firebirds, and will head to Eden Park Outer Oval for Round Seven looking to keep the third-placed Auckland Aces at bay, after the Firebirds and Aces also achieved wins in the round to maintain their top three position on the points table.
Proper cricket was on display in the last session at Napier as opening batsman Greg Hay's dour application against a challenging attack ensured the Central Stags went to stumps on the third day in a winning position.
Hay (above) had been at the crease for almost four hours for his unbeaten 79, supported by captain Will Young who perhaps played one of the most patient innings of his career (18 not out from 98 balls at day's end) as he helped hold the ground against the fiery Volts.
The pair frustrated the aggressive Neil Wagner (above) and Michael Rae, and held out spinner Mark Craig, ensuring that Ben Smith (caught off Rae, below) and Brad Schmulian (caught off Craig) would be the only losses on the day as they went after a chase of 264.
A win at McLean Park would mean the Stags retain their marginal second slot on the table behind the Firebirds, and hold their ground there against the Aces who looked to be in a winning position up north, so there was much at stake for Young and his side as he headed out to bat on a breezy afternoon.
And, after three largely overcast days, the sun had finally made a sustained appearance, batting conditions improving by the hour.
Earlier, off-spinner Ajaz Patel's 12th first-class five-wicket bag had ensured his side would have a chance at chasing down a gettable target.
Patel's 5-44 was the third five-wicket bag in the match and, when he headed to lunch with three of those wickets, the Stags had been well placed to restrict the Volts' lead, the visitors 136 for eight with Jacob Duffy and Neil Wagner yet to really settle in.
The pair would go on to add a quick 20 for the ninth wicket with Wagner blasting his way to 22 before becoming the last man to fall at 189 all out.
The all-BLACKCAP pace trio of Adam Milne (2-56, above), Seth Rance and Doug Bracewell had done the early damage but Shawn Hicks looked to be getting away on them at first drop, carrying on from his overnight 33.
Hicks spent more than two hours in all at the crease but was undone at the non-striker's end by a sharp, scrambling flick from Milne to run him out. It was the fourth time this season the Stags had been involved in such a dismissal, only one of them on the receiving end.
Almost half the run chase ticked off by stumps, the Stags were left needing 133 runs to win and eight wickets in hand for the final day, the forecast agreeable.
In the only game on the day not to feature a first-class hat-trick, the Central Stags might have been wishing for one in the last session after they found themselves on the back foot to the tune of 101 runs by tea.
Dismissed for 188, the Stags lost their nightwatchman to Neil Wagner early in the day and the BLACKCAP just kept chugging, accounting for the first four wickets as he added Brad Schmulian cheaply and, eventually, the doughty Greg Hay who had fought for more than an hour for his 26.
In between, vociferous appeals went begging, and even a (quickly avenged) appeal for a catch off Schmulian was denied, and it seemed to serve to make the Volts even more aggressive in their work.
Captain Will Young entered at five and looked to be stopping the rot with Jesse Ryder, the experienced pair weathering 15 overs together until spinner Mark Craig came into the attack and got one through Ryder's defences, a summary end to his patient 12.
Tom Bruce quickly found the short square boundary before guiding the ball straight to Mark Craig on 20, giving an elated Wagner his fifth wicket of the innings, the 30th five-for of his first-class career and a well earned reward after his energy had seemed indefatigable running in hard ball after ball.
Young was his side's best hope of ensuring they pocketed some batting points, but he needed someone to stay with him. Doug Bracewell looked promising for the next three quarters of an hour, before Craig struck again, adding Seth Rance and Adam Milne a few overs later for a useful haul of 4-43.
In between, Young's two hours and 20 minutes of concentration had come to a sticky end against Michael Rae, done in by the tennis ball bounce as keeper Derek de Boorder did well to collect the ball in front of first slip. His 49 would prove the Stags' top score.
Still, batting wasn't about to get much easier in the still-overcast conditions. Hamish Rutherford quickly lost his off pole to Adam Milne before Seth Rance got the ball to leap up alarmingly at Volts captain Brad Wilson in much the same manner as Rae had to Stags captain Young, Wilson caught by Jesse Ryder to have the score 32 for two.
Ben Smith, the deputising wicketkeeper for injured Dane Cleaver, pulled off a diving catch down the leg-side to remove Neil Broom for just three runs, off a chuffed Bracewell. That was followed by another big, swift loss in Anaru Kitchen, bowled by Ajaz Patel to have the southerners 49 for four, another couple of wicket maidens in the scorebook.
By stumps the Volts had crawled to 69 for four (Shawn Hicks unbeaten on 33), a lead of 170 heading into what promises to be a fascinating the third day.
Central Stags captain Will Young led a war-wounded side back into the resumption of the first-class season, having lost both George Worker and Dane Cleaver to injuries during the weekend's white ball Ford Trophy Final. Now, as the Plunket Shield offered the well placed Stags one last shot at a trophy this summer, he had a stand-in wicketkeeper as opening batsman Ben Smith took up the gloves at this level for the first time in six years and Brad Schmulian and Greg Hay rejoined the squad for red ball.
Young won the toss and bowled, but his injury problems were about to be exacerbated with pace bowler Blair Tickner leaving the field with a side strain.
Yet even without Tickner, the Stags' seam attack did the business, against a side that opted to leave out off-spinning captain Rob Nicol, Brad Wilson taking the armband.
Doug Bracewell and Seth Rance were in a two-horse race to see who would pick up the five-wicket bag as the pair poured the pressure on the Otago Volts, Rance making the opening breakthrough with Hamish Rutherford caught behind on nine before Bracewell came to the fore with the wickets of captain Brad Wilson and scoreless BLACKCAP Anaru Kitchen in the space of three balls (and Schmulian, with a superb side-on throw to run out the dangerous Shawn Hicks on just seven) to have the visitors' top order in tatters at 51 for four.
Neil Broom still stood in the way of too much celebration and as he pushed the Volts into triple figures, he stood just one shot away from his own half century. But it would not arrive, Bracewell elated to removed the dangerman lbw.
The Volts' rearguard knuckled down under pressure with Derek de Boorder once again showing his dependability as their safeguard down the order. De Boorder shared a 101-run stand with Jimmy Neesham before Bracewell scored himself another lbw, a little jig accompanying the big shout as Neesham was finally sent back after a racy 65 that included nine fours and two sixes.
De Boorder was the man who hung around as first Mark Craig and then Neil Wagner looked to slap some more runs on the board, Craig helping him add 52 for the seventh wicket.
The pair both fell to Rance in quick succession, the Stags' frontline paceman on an unconverted hat-trick but ultimately swooping in to pick up the final four wickets of the innings to net himself his second first-class five-wicket bag this season with 5-58.
Bracewell had been left stranded with an impressive 4-59 but there were no completes as the Stags pocketed maximum bonus points and headed out to bat at the tail of the first day.
They would quickly lose a wicket, however, with Smith bowled by a fired-up Neil Wagner, and the Volts all fizzed in the field in response. Nightwatchman Ajaz Patel joined Greg Hay to ensure the hosts had no further wobbles on the way to stumps, and will resume at 22 for one.