Wizards force issue but match ends in draw

The Canterbury Wizards dangled a carrot but the Auckland Aces refused to bite as their potentially exciting Plunket Shield cricket match ended in a rather tame draw at Christchurch today.

The Wizards were sluggish with the bat yesterday but they upped the ante today, briskly adding 56 runs to their overnight total of 131 for three before declaring at 187 for seven, and setting up what should have been a tantalising chase for the Aces.

They required 334 runs to win from a minimum of 86 overs -- a required run-rate of less than four runs an over -- but the visitors lacked intent and crawled to 238 for five when stumps were pulled.

A steady start to the chase was required and the Aces got that through Brad Cachopa (66) and Andrew de Boorder (54), but the runs came too slowly and when de Boorder was the third man dismissed, at 163, more than 63 overs had passed.

Greg Todd then took 99 balls to score 30 before some late hitting from New Zealand allrounder Kyle Mills, who scored 45 off 52 balls, proved to be in vain.

Legspinner Todd Astle dictated play for the Wizards, taking three for 53 from 29 overs.

Earlier, Bhupinder Singh starred with the ball for the Aces, taking four for 56 from 22 overs before the Wizards declared.

The hosts picked up two points for their first innings win.

Day 3: Slow Wizards still hold upper hand

The Canterbury Wizards continue to call the shots as they press for victory against the Auckland Aces in the first round of the Plunket Shield cricket competition at Christchurch.

The hosts will take a 277-run lead into the fourth and final day after easing to 131 for three in their second innings, though they took 57 overs to get to that stage.

Michael Papps led the way for the Wizards with an unbeaten 63 while Peter Fulton added 56 but time was at a premium and whether they have forced the issue enough to set up an outright win tomorrow remains to be seen.

The Aces started the third day 285 runs in deficit and with just five wickets in hand, so they would be happy enough with their day's work and may even get a chance to win tomorrow should the Wizards set them a tantalising target.

A patient 101 from Anaru Kitchen, scored off 220 balls and in a tick over four hours, and a brisk 69 from New Zealand international Kyle Mills -- their pair put on 115 for the sixth wicket -- somewhat steadied the ship but after both departed, the Wizards had no problems mopping up the tail.

Wizards opening bowler Ryan McCone, an uncontracted player who had taken just five wickets in his first four matches, was the standout, doubling his first-class wicket tally with five for 46 from 17 overs.

Day 2: Uphill struggle ahead for the Aces

The middle order came to the rescue but the Auckland Aces still face an uphill struggle to get points off the Canterbury Wizards in their Plunket Shield cricket match at Christchurch.

After two days, the visitors trail by 285 runs with just five wickets in hand after the Wizards reached a substantial 435 for nine declared, highlighted by Dean Brownlie becoming the first centurion of the domestic summer.

In response, the Aces were 150 for five, having improved considerably from a start at QEII Park Village Green that saw them slump to 29 for four.

Colin de Grandhomme stopped the rot with a pugnacious 53, followed by diligent knocks from Anaru Kitchen and captain Kyle Mills, who were unbeaten on 48 and 32 respectively at stumps.

Left-arm seamer Ryan McCone was the Wizards' danger man, the 23-year-old taking three for 16 off nine overs. He clean bowled openers Jeet Raval and Brad Cachopa for ducks before returning to remove de Grandhomme with the first ball of his second spell.

Earlier Australian-born Brownlie continued on his merry way after resuming at 74 and the Wizards at 281 for six.

Brownlie went on to lodge a career-best 153 not out, accelerating as the innings progressed and underlining his strength through the onside in particular with a range of attacking shots. He struck 18 fours in recording his second century at this level, a knock that lasted just under six hours.

Todd Astle provided the best support today, reaching 41 while medium-pacer Andre Adams and offspinner Bhupinder Singh both claimed three wickets for the Aces.

Day 1: Brownlie starts on right note

Dean Brownlie made the ideal start in his bid to force international cricket selection through strong form for the Canterbury Wizards as they ground the Auckland Aces down from the start of their Plunket Shield match today.

Perth-born Brownlie was 74 not out and the Wizards 281 for six at stumps on the first day at QEII Park Village Green after captain Peter Fulton won the toss and chose to bat.

Rob Nicol scored 75, fellow-opener Michael Papps 41 and Fulton 42 to lay the foundation of a sizeable score.

Two wickets late in the day from Andre Adams was a hiccup for the hosts, who were cruising at 272 for four.

Still there is 26-year-old Australian Brownlie, whose hard-hitting feats for New Zealand A over the off-season thrust him under the microscope as a New Zealand World Cup prospect.

The right-hander, who played age group cricket for Western Australia and at second 11 level for English County Kent, today displayed a mix of attacking and patient qualities during a three-hour knock which he hopes will extend well into the second day.

Last summer he scored 374 runs in 10 innings at an average close to 50 for the Wizards, including a century in his Plunket Shield debut.

Adams and Bhupinder Singh were the pick of eight bowlers employed by the Aces, the latter taking two for 53 in 28 tight overs of off spin.

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