Plunket Shield returned to Palmerston North | All images: MBUTCHER

Battle of Wills in Palmerston North

Video Highlights



Fitzherbert Park, Palmerston North

20-23 March, 2022


Toss: Canterbury who batted


Points this round: Central Stags 4, Canterbury 6


Selected Milestones

Will Clark: Central Stags and first-class debut

Will O'Rourke (Canterbury): first-class debut

Cole McConchie: sixth first-class century, fifth in Plunket Shield, career best score

Fraser Sheat - maiden first-class half century

Zak Foulkes - career best bowling

Will O'Rourke - maiden first-class wicket

Ray Toole - 50th first-class wicket



Canterbury captain Cole McConchie once again declared overnight, with the visitors at 81/3 in their second innings - setting the Central Stags a 317-run chase for victory on the sunless last day, with some wet weather in the forecast for the last afternoon.

By lunch, Stags openers Greg Hay (41*) and Ben Smith (40*) had safely navigated the passage through the first session, putting on 99 together for no loss and, in theory, in a position to snatch a surprise win.

It left 218 further runs to find in the day - weather permitting, with light rain bringing on the covers at the lunch break.

However, the rain would not push off, the match eventually declared a draw.


Bright morning sunshine replaced the grey, sodden skies of the previous day as Canterbury captain Cole McConchie declared overnight on 438/8, leaving himself stranded on a career best unbeaten 187*.

By lunch, Canterbury's new-look pace attack had earned their fruit salad after four wickets in the first session.

Making his first-class entrée at fourth change, the strapping young Will O'Rourke had his maiden wicket in his fifth over with Brad Schmulian caught by McConchie.

Playing in just his second first-class match, Zak Foulkes had already made the opening breakthrough, his delicious late swing proving the undoing of Central Stags skipper Greg Hay whose poles went flying at 36/1.

Foulkes came back for another nibble just before lunch to devastating effect, a double wicket maiden claiming Ben Smith and Christian Leopard to send the Stags into the break in a sticky situation at 57/4.

An unbroken century stand between Tom Bruce (90*) and Joey Field hauled the Stags somewhat back on track before Greg Hay gamely declared 235 runs behind.

After having been rudely interrupted by an afternoon thunderstorm at tea, Canterbury batted again and ended the day at 81/3, for an overall lead of 316.

Ray Toole had meanwhile picked up his 50th first-class wicket and will resume with 2-36.


The Central Stags had turned up needing just two more wickets to close off the Canterbury first dig, but incumbent centurion Cole McConchie and tailender Fraser Sheat had other ideas.

On a much cooler morning - the breeze bringing a pre-rainstorm chill, McConchie went past 150 and on to his first-class best, which had previously stood at 162.

Sheat's previous best had meanwhile been 36, in 21 appearances.

As he grew increasingly emboldened, the run rate picked up. He hit Ray Toole for six, and then rose the bat for his maiden first class half ton, to the delight of the visitors.

It had been a frustrating morning for Toole who created chances, but went wicketless as he searched for a bag - while Canterbury's now boisterous ninth-wicket partnership grew to 138*, a record between the two sides, before rain arrived and ushered in an early lunch at 438/8.

By then, McConchie had reached 187 not out, helped along by a couple of sixes off Ajaz Patel before the lengthy rain break that eventually saw play called off for the day after lunch had been taken 45 minutes early.


A debutant on each side and a toss win to the visitors marked the return of first-class cricket to Palmerston North after an interval of 14 seasons.

Stags captain Greg Hay, returning from a broken thumb in this match, was the sole survivor from the last first-class match at Fitzherbert Park in 2008, and he was likely not too concerned when his opposing captain Cole McConchie won the toss and invited the Stags to bowl first on a bright, sunshiney day.

The weather would turn before the end of the day, but on a grassy deck a youthful Stags pace attack was led capably by hometown seamer Ray Toole (below) and Joey Field, with a recalled Liam Dudding and debutant Will Clark.

The hosts were quickly into their work, finding four wickets before lunch and one soon after - including Clark picking up his maiden first-class wicket with just his fourth delivery.

It was the big wicket of Henry Nicholls who departed caught at 55/2. Canterbury found themselves 115/4 by lunch - with opener Chad Bowes having fallen to Field soon after reaching a positive half century.

Fresh off his maiden bag in the previous round, Toole had his third when Cam Fletcher went cheaply after the break, and Toole would finish the day with 4-77 off his 23 overs and with a good chance of backing up with another bag on the second morning.

But in the meantime, Canterbury skipper McConchie had calmly taken charge.

His sixth first-class century was crucial for his side, with rookie Zak Foulkes providing invaluable support in an 86-run stand for the sixth wicket.

The 19-year-old Foulkes was on the cusp of a maiden half century when Dudding broke through to end his stint on a career best 49.

Theo van Woerkom (32) picked up where Foulkes had left off by providing McConchie with a partnership - the pair adding a further 86 runs.

Over by over, Canterbury was steadily pushing ahead, and by the time the new ball was taken in the last session, McConchie had reached 99 not out.

The wind picking up, Hay turned again to his impressive debutant and Clark managed to rattle McConchie's nerves for a few balls with the new cherry before the Cantabrian found the boundary to raise his bat after more than four hours' toil.

McConchie would still be there at stumps, unbeaten on 136*.

Clark meanwhile had nabbed a second wicket, Canterbury now down to their last two wickets, both teams with three bonus points and chasing a fourth first thing tomorrow; and Canterbury set to resume at 341/8.

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