Todd Astle celebrates his century. Image: Photosport

Two Ton Todd

DAY FOUR

End of match — Canterbury 165/9 in the second innings (Bowes retired hurt; Tim Johnston 43; Scott Kuggeleijn career best 6-60) lost to Northern Districts 198/5 second innings (Bharat Popli 41, Daryl Mitchell 51*, Tim Seifert 31*) by five wickets at Hagley Oval, Christchurch on 25 October 2016

Scorecard

The cricket gods decided to have a chuckle on the final day of round one at Hagley by turning the home team’s match completely on its head.

Canterbury had spent three days on the ascendancy in Todd Astle’s 100th first-class game, but young Northern quick Scott Kuggeleijn was their nemesis — ripping out six wickets in just 17.5 overs of pace bowling gold, his 6-60 a new career best.

So, from a 123-run lead overnight and being reasonably poised for a fairytale finish, the shell-shocked Cantabrians found themselves needing to defend just 196 if they were to stop themselves from bowing down to Northern Districts.

Kuggeleijn’s impact included a double wicket maiden that also produced his 100th first-class wicket when he got former Northern teammate Cam Fletcher caught behind. Three balls later, he produced a brilliant inswinger that shot past a scoreless Kyle Jamieson to hit the top of off-stump with such force that it catapulted it out of the ground.

Kuggeleijn had entered the match needing six to reach the 100 wickets milestone, and walked away exceeding it with a match analysis of 9-190 — the overall figures also a new first-class career best.

The rapidly-changing match scenario created an enthralling final day as Canterbury began to sweat and scrape hard for its last 72 runs. Tim Johnston contributed 43 of them, hanging on at eight and desperately planting four boundaries and three sixes, little chance of the innings progressing much longer.

Kuggeleijn would have the satisfaction of removing him, too. Canterbury was skittled just two overs later at 165/9 after the action-packed 48.5 overs, Chad Bowes having retired hurt after a blow to the head the previous day and unable to resume.

Whilst chasing a sub-200 total put the ball right back in Northern’s court, Canterbury’s experienced brains trust wasn’t done fighting for this one and made early breakthroughs in the crunch innings. Young Jamieson broke the opening stand at 36 before ruthless Andy Ellis and Todd Astle backed up to have Northern 71/3.

Daryl Mitchell played a key finishing role for Northern Districts. Image: Photosport

It was the pivotal point of the afternoon, but the composed pair of Bharat Popli (41) and Daryl Mitchell managed to steady the maroon and golds with a 53-run stand that settled nerves in dressing-room. Mitchell (51*) carried on for an unbeaten half century with younger colleague Tim Seifert, who backed up his key first innings knock with a quick 31 before they both wandered back in with big smiles on their faces, the unlikely victory in the bag.

In cricket, anything can happen and it left Northern Districts top of the table after round one. They now head to the Basin Reserve on Saturday to meet the only other successful side from round one, the Wellington Firebirds. The round two match begins at 10.30am and entry is free throughout the four days.

DAY THREE

At stumps — Canterbury 93/4 (Todd Astle 9* overnight) in the second innings, leads Northern Districts by 123. Earlier — Northern Districts 415 all out (continued; Tim Seifert 81, Scott Kuggeleijn 34) at Hagley Oval, Christchurch, 24 October 2016
 
Scorecard
First innings bonus points: Canterbury 7, Northern Districts 7

First innings centurion Todd Astle has another big opportunity in his 100th first-class game — provided he can negotiate Northern’s demanding seam attack on the final morning, that is.

Todd Astle turns for a run. Image: Photosport

Earlier, from 242/5 his teammates had finally stopped Northern’s first innings at 415 — 21-year-old ex-NZU19s wicketkeeper batsman Tim Seifert having led a strong late order charge with a steady 81 that only added the icing to the ND top order’s cake.

Canterbury’s bowlers had shared the wickets around, debutant Henry Shipley (1-49) eventually removing Seifert, the last to fall, for his maiden first-class victim, which also witnessed Peter Fulton picking up his third catch of the innings.

Seifert had got right under their red and black skin with a 57-run stand with Kuggeleijn (34 off 55) for the seventh wicket, then 55 for the eighth with Joe Walker (26) — and then yet another burst of runs with Jimmy Baker (22), collectively putting up a resistance that lasted for a tad over four hours.

Now, thanks so much to Astle’s earlier efforts, Canterbury held a valuable 123-run lead, but with just six wickets in hand heading into the final day. They had once again lost BLACKCAP Henry Nicholls cheaply, while the handy Fulton, Ellis and McClure were all gone, too, and Chad Bowes had been forced to retire hurt. So, over to “hot Toddy” Astle once more, who found himself back at the crease late on the third day, looking to lead it safely through to the close of the 35 overs before stumps. He’ll need more on day four if Canterbury is to take control once more. What can the toast of Canterbury achieve this time?

Northern Districts help Zak Gibson celebrate a wicket. Image: Photosport

DAY TWO

At stumps — Northern Districts 242/5 (Daniel Flynn 66, Dean Brownlie 104) trails Canterbury by 203 runs in the first innings. Earlier — Canterbury 445 all out (Todd Astle 195, Tim Johnston 66, Kyle Jamieson 40; Scott Kuggeleijn 3-130) at Hagley Oval, Christchurch, 23 October 2016

Scorecard

First innings batting bonus points, Canterbury 4; Northern Districts 1 (in progress)
First innings bowling bonus points, Northern Districts 4; Canterbury 2 (in progress)

Number eleven Ed Nuttall was left owing Todd Astle a favour or three after a tragic end to Astle's best first-class innings. When the Canterbury star was just five runs away from what would have been a maiden double ton, the young Nuttall turned blind in a calling breakdown that put his senior partner in no man’s land.

Game-changer Astle had batted for more than five and a half hours at better than run-a-ball pace for his career-best 195 off 189, and he had been busy single-handedly helping Canterbury advance from 417/8 overnight to 445 before the runout brought down the red and black curtain. He had shouldered the workload after losing Henry Shipley quickly on the second morning, the debutant’s dismissal ending a 76-run stand for the ninth wicket that equalled the 32-year-old Canterbury record against ND.

Northern Districts needed a robust reply, and the opening combo of captain Daniel Flynn and Dean Brownlie provided it. They poured on retribution with a new ND record for the first wicket against Canterbury of 174.

Flynn’s 66 was his 26th first-class half century, but it was Brownlie who carried on for the ton (104) as the track flattened through the day. His 12th first-class century overall was his third for Northern Districts, his rare triple century at Pukekura Park two seasons ago naturally standing tallest amongst those efforts.

Having been a steady 158 without loss at tea, it took a piece of brilliance to break their partnership and that was perhaps when Nuttall made his amends, albeit to a different spinner. Flynn had just murdered a trademark cut shot through backward point off Tim Johnston but Nuttall sucked it in, his paw no doubt left stinging.

Brownlie’s century would arrive off 187 balls, but Astle was next to strike soon afterwards as he continued his 100th match benefit with two late wickets, Brownlie sending up an edge which Canterbury skipper Andy Ellis excitedly ran round to pocket. Joe Carter was ignominiously bowled after leaving an Ellis in-swinger just a few overs later, and the local celebrations went up a notch further when Astle then cramped up last season’s batsman of the year Bharat Popli to have the dangerous number four in the trap for just a cheap nine runs.

It was a huge moment as Canterbury marched back into the last session, but by stumps Northern Districts had at least reached 242 for five to reduce their deficit to 203. ND went in overnight with a competent rearguard of Daryl Mitchell (22*) and Tim Seifert (0*) intact and still in a position to make a difference on the third morning.

DAY ONE

At stumps — Canterbury 417/8 (Andy Ellis 41, Todd Astle 167*, Tim Johnston 66, Kyle Jamieson 40; Scott Kuggeleijn 3-109) v Northern Districts at Hagley Oval, Christchurch, 22 October 2016

Scorecard
First innings batting bonus points, Canterbury 4 (maximum achieved)
First innings bowling bonus points, Northern Districts: 3 (interim)

In 99 first-class games, Todd Astle had only reached a century once. In his 100th match on the first day of the new season, he celebrated with the biggest knock of his career. He might even make it a double.

The veteran number six inspired Canterbury’s young late order, including a debutant, to stick with him as they set about putting an imposing stamp on a day that had not started anywhere near so strongly for the hosts.

The red and blacks had been sent in to face Northern’s tight seam attack. From Jimmy Baker’s first breakthrough at 49/1, a flurry of big wickets — two of them to young Zak Gibson — saw Peter Fulton, Henry Nicholls and Ken McClure all back in the hut for just a further 11 runs.

Northern Districts celebrate a wicket. Image: Photosport

New Plunket Shield captain Andy Ellis stopped the rot, knocking the ball to the pickets nine times in a no-nonsense 41, but it would be his batting partner going on to make all the milestones.

Astle’s 167, still going at stumps, was belted out at better than run-a-ball pace, with 22 fours. There were a few tell-tale dot balls as he sat in the high 90s — when you have the odd thought on your mind about not getting out; but overall such audacity hardly seemed the work of a man whose last three-figure effort was way back in 2008. What a time to pull it off again.

It ruined Northern’s day, their formerly lean bowling figures ballooning as “Toddy” took charge. After Ellis  was castled by Kuggeleijn, Todd had support from Tim Johnston, who likewise made his 66 at better than run-a-ball pace. Johnson’s demise was tragic as he sprinted down to his partner’s end only to find Astle still standing there, summarily run out when he couldn’t scramble back to the non-striker’s in time.
 
Things calmed down quickly for Canterbury though as the tall young Kyle Jamieson came in and contributed 40 with another half-dozen boundaries. The Canterbury Country theme continued when another of the district’s young scions, Henry Shipley, joined Astle for the ninth wicket.

Shipley got his first-class debut off to a pleasant enough start to be unbeaten on 24 overnight. Earlier in the day he had been presented with his Canterbury cap by his uncle, former BLACKCAPS and Canterbury off-spinner Mark Priest. Shipley’s father James was also 12th man for Canterbury in 1985 against Wellington, but never featured in the playing XI.

The entire family would have been thrilled to see Canterbury at 417 for eight by stumps — quite the recovery since lunch.

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