An untimely Napier stalemate | MBUTCHER

Frustration mounts for rain-stymied Canterbury

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Match drawn

McLean Park, Napier

15-18 November, 2023



Total points this round:

Central Stags : 4

Canterbury: 5


Greg Hay - 100th first-class match for Central Stags

Blair Tickner - 200 first-class wickets

Ray Toole - 100 first-class wickets

Henry Nicholls - 7000 first-class runs

Jack Boyle - 1000 first-class runs

Dane Cleaver - 4000 first-class runs for Central Stags

Doug Bracewell - 3000 first-class runs for Central Stags


For so many reasons, this should have been a Plunket Shield classic. Last summer's champion Stags versus the runner up; two teams with history, form, and a special occasion for Stags captain Greg Hay who became just the second man in the team's 73-year history (after Mathew Sinclair) to play 100 first-class matches for his team. The match even pitted brother against brother. The Stags struggled again with the bat in this mid-table battle, but a fightback from injured Doug Bracewell meant both sides stayed in the contest until rain on the final afternoon put a result beyond reach, keeping them both mid-table on a tight ladder at the halfway mark of the first-class season.


It may have been his 100th cap match, but Lady Luck was cutting Greg Hay no favours as the Central Stags captain lost his fourth toss in a row in the fourth contest of the season. The Stags were playing in Napier for the first time this season with two sweltery summer days to open the four-dayer.

Canterbury captain Cole McConchie invited the hosts to bowl first, but would find themselves bowled out inside the first day, opener Matt Boyle's 54 the only half century in a tally of 225.

Allrounder Zak Foulkes (and later, Fraser Sheat with an unbeaten 30*) had added value late in the order with his 44, frustrating the Stags who had had their guests in all sorts at 106/5 at lunch.

Foulkes and Sean Davey put on 53 for the eighth wicket after a middle order collapse, paceman Brett Randell (4/25) having ripped the stuffing out of the innings before Blair Tickner pitched in with three wickets, including his 200th at first-class level when he dismissed Angus McKenzie.

Zak Foulkes | MBUTCHER

McKenzie was going to have his revenge soon enough, with two influential caught and bowleds helping his side get the Stags three down the next morning.

But in the meantime the Stags openers, Curtis Heaphy and Jack Boyle, batted out the last few overs of the day without trouble, the hosts finishing at 17 without loss.


McKenzie's first caught and bowled on another warm morning with the pitch still doing a bit was a regulation chance that dismissed Jack Boyle at 45/1.

Gus McKenzie | MBUTCHER

His second was a showstopper, and arguably the bigger wicket. Diving, he stuck out his left mitt as Greg Hay offered up a difficult chance, the Stags captain yet to get off the mark in his milestone match. Somehow it stuck, a one-handed speccy, and Hay walked off again contemplating the many vicissitudes of cricket.

While the Stags' bowling in each match through the first half of the season had been a force to be reckoned with, their batting had been patchy, and in this match they were without the services of Tom Bruce who was injured in the previous game while he was busy scoring a century.


Another senior player in Dane Cleaver (above) top-scored with just 34 now in their troubled first innings, as big attack leader Will O'Rourke (3/24) made his presence felt, in confunction with McKenzie's handy 3/46 at fifth change.

Cleaver was a costly wicket with Canterbury removing both the keeper-batter and Josh Carkson in back-to-back overs.

Doug Bracewell was left to bat on one leg, with a knee gripe that would prevent the influential allrounder from bowling for the rest of the match.

Michael Rippon strikes | MBUTCHER

The Stags were dismissed on the cusp of tea, conceding a first innings decifit of 48 - after a late rip from Canterbury's spin weapon Michael Rippon who finished with 2/2 off his 4.1 overs.

Canterbury then progressed to 128/4 by stumps, with all the top four guns back in the hutch after Cleaver snaffled three catches behind the stumps.

Crucially the Stags had broken a threatening stand of 59 between Matt Boyle and Henry Nicholls, Ray Toole with two big wickets before a water leak in the vacant Lowe Stand set off the fire alarms and caused a novel break in play while the local fire service roared in and attended.

Greg Hay leads his team off | MBUTCHER


Canterbury's partnership between overnight batsmen Mitch Hay (39) and Rippon (47) proved stubborn in the morning session, the rest of the Stags' attack putting in the hard yards on a flattening pitch without the services of Bracewell.

Hay and Rippon's stand grew steadily to reach 80 before Ajaz Patel had Hay (above), caught Hay, at 171/5.

On another warm day in the Bay, the Canterbury mid-to-late order again put on niggly runs, with Foulkes (50 off 68 balls) slamming Brad Schmulian onto the roof of the Lowe Stand in one of two big sixes.


McKenzie also cashed in with a half century but a late rally saw left-arm paceman Ray Toole collect his 100th first-class wicket - with his third first-class bag.

100 wickets and a bag for Toole | MBUTCHER

It was a timely intervention from Toole in the circumstances of a depleted attack, then he helped hismelf to his 101st wicket for good measure before Patel wrapped up the second innings in the action-packed middle session at 320 in 81 overs.

Ajaz Patel | MBUTCHER

That left the Stags a fair chase of 369, albeit on a benign surface with no time pressure.

But again, things did not go to plan for the Central Stags batters. Hay was a big wicket, this time stopped on 35 after nicking behind off Sheat. Still, anything is better than a pair in your 100th cap match.

Jack Boyle appeared to hold the key to the hosts asserting themselves against his former side, after a promising half century. Boyle reached 72 after more than two hours in the middle, but lost his wicket at a frustrating time when he was undone by Mckenzie late in the last session.

By stumps, the Stags were four down, with a further 212 still required, and nightwatchman Patel having joined Cleaver who had glided to 31* overnight, his team set to resume at 157/4.


A cooler, overcast morning greeted the teams, with a threat of rain on the radar. But to begin with, the local weather played ball on a big final day, and both sides had their chances to advance their cause.

The Stags needed 212 runs with seemingly enough time to get them - even with some rain, and Canterbury needed six wickets. Game on.

Cleaver looked in control as he carried on to reach his half century, but he would be a big loss when he casually lobbed up a catch off Rippon on 60.

Canterbury was closing in... so was the weather | MBUTCHER

Had the Stags not already lost Schmulian, and with Clarkson about to depart cheaply as well, the odds might still have been in their favour as they looked to chase down their third victory from four matches before the rain came.

But Canterbury were making the plays instead, now, in the crucial morning session. Unable to bowl but able to swing a bat, Bracewell came out and smacked a half ton off just 73 balls.

By lunch he was still there on 59*, and the Stags now needed just a further 113 runs from two sessions to win the match - while Canterbury needed two wickets. Typically, the weather decided to ruin an exciting finish.

With soft rain setting in at lunchtime and the becalmed ground refusing to dry out for the rest of the afternoon, reluctantly the teams called it quits late that afternoon. The first half of their respective campaigns was over, both sides still in contention but with no real ground gained, and Northern Districts meanwhile having snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in Dunedin to take the pole position heading into the back end of the campaign that will resume in late February 2024.






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