Round three: Canterbury v Central Stags at Hagley Oval, Christchurch, 7-10 November 2017
Points from this round: Central Stags 20, Canterbury 2
The Central Stags wrapped up victory by an innings and 86 runs — with two sessions to spare — after comprehensively outplaying Canterbury with both bat and ball.
Pace bowler Blair Tickner went tantalisingly close to a maiden first-class five for before Doug Bracewell and Ajaz Patel snared the final wickets, Tickner settling for a first-class career best 4-41 and a second consecutive outright win for the Stags, who took maximum points from the match.
Tickner also executed an outstanding run out as the Stags' charge to the finish line gathered pace.
With Canterbury still 161 in the red when play began for the final day, Cameron Fletcher and Cole McConchie (56) patiently working their way towards a 100-run stand for the fifth wicket, an early wicket was the last thing Canterbury had needed. It was what they got, however, as Bevan Small started the ball rolling for the day with no addition to the score.
Fletcher showed a gritty straight bat as he held on for his own half century, but in the meantime he'd lost Danny Sams to the slick run out. Of the remaining order, Tim Johnston offered some defiance with a quick and desperate 44, while captain Andrew Ellis, batting in the tail still, was clearly out of sorts with the after-effects of his broken hand.
The Stags now head further south to Dunedin where they will face the Otago Volts from Wednesday, while Canterbury heads to the Basin Reserve for what should be another tough contest against the unbeaten Wellington Firebirds.
The unbeaten Stags remain in second spot on the table, but will be keen to make further headway on the Firebirds after holding the gap to 15 points.
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Seth Rance helped himself to his third first-class five-wicket bag as Canterbury's first innings fell to bits on the third morning, dismissed for 194 whilst still trailing their visitors by a hefty 304 runs.
The teams went to lunch with Canterbury now facing the task of following on after the break.
Stags allrounder Bevan Small had chimed in with 2-29 off just nine overs, including top scorer Michael Pollard who was caught behind on 62 after some two and a half hours' labour. Doug Bracewell had accounted for Cam Fletcher, caught by Small on 27, a wicket that would rob Pollard of crucial support after their 80-run stand for the fifth wicket as the innings petered out.
After lunch, at 52/4 in the 17th, Canterbury found themselves in even deeper trouble. Rance and Bracewell quickly removed the openers, then Blair Tickner sweeping in for a brace — including Pollard.
Cole McConchie and Cam Fletcher faced a mighty task, Canterbury still needing some 250 runs to avoid an innings defeat, however they slowly pedalled their way safely to stumps, 143 for four needing a further 161 to avoid an innings defeat now, Fletcher on 37* and McConchie 56* overnight in an unbroken 91-run stand for the fifth.
Statchat: Keeper-batsman Fletcher also brought up his 1000th first-class run for Canterbury, in the same match he had ticked off 100 dismissals for the team. He previously represented Northern Districts.
Early lunch was been taken at Hagley Oval after stormy overnight rain, play finally resuming shortly before 2pm. Canterbury had to wait only two deliveries before they celebrated the dismissal of nightwatchman Ajaz Patel, a second wicket for Danny Sams; but the celebrations were more pronounced when they broke a quickly blossoming stand for the fifth wicket between incumbent Brad Schmulian and dangerman Jesse Ryder, coming off a Plunket Shield record-equalling three centuries on the trot.
Schmulian was the victim, feathering a catch behind to give young Fraser Sheat his second wicket of the innings and keeper Cam Fletcher his third catch, now the proud owner of 100 first-class dismissals for Canterbury.
Fast-starting Ryder had already pasted three boundaries and had just boomed Sams for his first six; the live-wire Schmulian meanwhile was all technical perfection as he drove through the covers to the rope, and, despite being in only his fifth first-class innings, it was almost a shock when he misjudged one on 74.
Ryder breezed to his fifty, booming it up with a six off Andrew Ellis. In Nelson, he had shared two century stands with Dane Cleaver; this time their work together would stop at 68 for the sixth wicket, Tim Johnston bowling the extravagant Cleaver on 34 to put the Stags at 428 for six.
With Doug Bracewell arriving at the crease, Ryder was not going to run out of capable batting partners anytime soon, and the pair knuckled down to start work on a 70-run stand for the next wicket.
Unfortunately for Ryder he would fall just before tea, and just 11 runs short of becoming the first player ever to score four consecutive Plunket Shield centuries; nevertheless the ease and brutality of his run-a-ball 89 (10 fours, two sixes) had once again made him look a cut above his contemporaries. In the process he lodged his 1000th first-class run for his original team, and an average above 50.
The Stags declared at the break on 498 for seven, then made the perfect start to the last session as Seth Rance successfully shouted against Chad Bowes first ball of Canterbury's reply: 0/1.
DECLARATION, we've decided 498/7 will do it for now. And @CanterburyCrick 0/1 after Seth Rance strikes 1st ball of the reply! We love cricket.. #PlunketShield🔰 #LoveTheStags🦌 pic.twitter.com/mMOPUXfaf4— Central Stags 🏏 (@CentralStags) November 8, 2017
Rance soon had both openers, leaving Ken McClure and Michael Pollard with an early rebuild mission. They were just on the cusp of putting the Canterbury 50 on the board when the introduction of Blair Tickner spelt another significant setback for the hosts, Tickner claiming Ken McClure (36) with his first delivery and then trapping a scoreless Cole McConchie in the same over: 50 for four.
Pollard put his head down with Cam Fletcher as they looked to get their side through to stumps without further injury, while Stags captain turned to leading spinner Ajaz Patel and gave Seth Rance another roll before stumps, then leg-spinner Schmulian. The hosts survived and trailed on the first innings by exactly 400 when the umpires called time.
BLACKCAP George Worker’s first innings of the season for the Stags produced his second Plunket Shield century on the trot, backing up from last summer with a hard-hitting 111 at Hagley Oval.
After riding some early luck, Worker punished the youngsters in the Canterbury attack in particular, cutting and pulling the ball mercilessly to the boundary before posting his seventh first-class ton, and fifth for the Central Stags, in full style with his first six of the innings.
Captain Will Young having earlier won the toss and batted on a wan-coloured deck, in his 50th Plunket Shield appearance for the Stags, the score would reach 188 (a new first-wicket record for the Stags against Canterbury, by 10 runs, beating Peter Ingram and Jamie How's 2002/03 effort, and a Hagley Oval first-class opening partnership record) before a wicket finally fell for Canterbury, in the middle session, spinner Tim Johnston squeezing one through Worker’s defences when he was on 111.
Fellow opener Greg Hay had been the drummer to Worker’s lead guitar but was steadily accruing a sizeable knock of his own, backing up with another Plunket Shield fifty after his second-innings effort in Nelson and moving into the 80s by tea.
Now accompanied by Brad Schmulian, Hay reached his ninth first-class century in the last session as he and Schmulian began to score more freely off the spinners, the century also seeing the Stags’ 250 on the board — still for the loss of just one wicket.
By the time it was 300 for one, Schmulian had his half century and a 100-stand for the second wicket with Hay. The Stags were sitting pretty as their hosts desperately sought a breakthrough before stumps, Canterbury captain Andrew Ellis’s 100th first-class match not going to plan so far.
Young Fraser Sheat finally produced it, getting Hay to nick one behind on 140, ending the opening anchorman's ninth first-class century after some two and a half sessions at the crease.
Nightwatchman Ajaz Patel joined Schmulian looking to see out the last half dozen overs of the day after the fall of scoreless skipper Young, the Stags 326/3 at stumps, Schmulian on 64*.
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