CANTERBURY lost to CENTRAL STAGS by 6 wickets
Mainpower Oval, Rangiora
13-16 March, 2023
First innings points:
Canterbury 0 batting (completed), 4 bowling (maximum achieved)
Central Stags 4 bowling (maximum achieved), 2 batting (completed)
Total points this round: Canterbury 4, Central Stags 18
Matt Boyle: first-class debut
Bevan Small: 50 first-class wickets
Josh Clarkson: maiden first-class century
Josh Clarkson: career best bowling
Image: MBUTCHER| All other images: PHOTOSPORT
No toss or play after rain saw the first day abandoned.
The toss was finally made on the second morning with home skipper Cole McConchie electing to bat. None of his side got traction in the first innings, however, with Canterbury dismissed after tea for 186, one of their lowest totals of the summer.
Ray Toole | PHOTOSPORT
Stags allrounder Bevan Small, returning to the first-class arena for the first time since March 2018, following two knee surgeries, celebrated his first wicket in five years with gusto - his 50th in the Plunket Shield, Cam Fletcher departing at 86/5.
Small soon had another in Leo Carter, at 113/6, but the most remarkable wicket of the day was an unusual relay catch between bowler Ajaz Patel and his skipper Greg Hay, Patel tossing up a difficult low attempted caught and bowled for Hay to swoop in and collect.
Angus McKenzie could scarcely believe his eyes as he trudged back at 149/8, but the Canterbury late order had produced some handy runs with Ish Sodhi top-scoring with 32 and getting some flow with Henry Shipley, and later last man Fraser Sheat who hung around for almost an hour to smack 21.
By stumps, the Stags had had a taste of their own medicine with four quick wickets falling.
The top four was gone at 29/4 before Tom Bruce and Dane Cleaver steadied the ship in a patient stint before stumps.
Henry Shipley | PHOTOSPORT
The Stags would begin the third day trailing by 134 with six in hand, while Shipley sat on three wickets overnight.
A magic moment emerged from what had started as a troubling third day for the Stags, as their two overnight batsmen, Tom Bruce and Dane Cleaver, both found themselves in the wars.
Bruce retired not out with back spasms on 23*, but would come back to bat in the middle session, at the fall of the ninth wicket.
Cleaver meanwhile was involved in a mortifying calling muddle that saw him run himself out on 27, looking for a second run on a misfield. But to add injury to insult, his awkward dive in the desperate attempt to regain his ground appeared to see him suffer a painful blow, as the physios assisted him off the park.
Against that backdrop, Josh Clarkson kept his composure - and found the perfect moment to take control in the middle for his team.
Better known as a white-ball hard hitter, the allrounder went past his previous career best of 83 (last season) from his dozen previous appearances to date.
With Bevan Small for company, he reached his maiden first-class hundred off 124 balls, in two and a half hours, with a dozen boundaries and one six.
After having contributed 70 runs to a 95-run stand with Cleaver, his 82-run seventh wicket stand with Small saw the latter come close to reaching a half ton in his comeback game - the first match in five years, after his lengthy injury layoff.
The pair got the first batting bonus in the bank for their side, but on 45, after six boundaries and a six of his own, Small's luck ran out at 238/6.
Clarkson then lost a couple more partners in quick succession, but carried on a stint that now surpassed three hours to push his career best knock to 119, off 146 balls, before Ish Sodhi (3/60) bowled him at 260/9 - a second batting bonus in the bank for the Stags, but ultimately denied a third.
Now Bruce returned to bat again, and added a further 18 runs to his own score (41 not out) before the technical number 11 Ray Toole was caught off Fraser Sheat to end the innings at 282, after 81 overs.
The Stags had taken a 96-run first innings lead, with exactly four sessions remaining in the game.
By stumps, Canterbury had made good use of the flatter conditions to knock off that lead for the loss of only one wicket, while the Stags had both 12th man Will Clark and sub fielders Thomas Zohrab and Sam Cassidy on the field for their assorted players in the wars, though Cleaver had recovered from his runout rumble in order to keep wicket as normal.
Legspinner Brad Schmulian trapped local Rhys Mariu on 46 after 90-run opening stand, the hosts going to stumps at 103/1 for an interim overall lead of 7 runs, Mitch Hay poised on 46 not out.
After a 45-minute ground delay, the teams went back into battle, top of the table Canterbury prepared to patiently bide their time and rivals the Stags pushing for wickets to hurry things along.
Almost immediately Brett Randell dismissed Cantebury skipper Cole McConchie caught behind cheaply, but the Stags would have to wait more than an hour and a half before they got their next breakthrough, Leo Carter departing caught and bowled off Josh Clarkson at 173/3.
Clarkson would pick up another after lunch, Mitch Hay once again denied a maiden century when he was caught on 83.
The Cantabrian Hay had done an important job for his team, with a couple more Canterbury wickets falling cheaply. But now the door was forced open.
Ray Toole picked up a tough wicket in debutant Matt Boyle at home on his own turf (departing for 35) to have the hosts 224/7 in the middle session, and Canterbury still only 128 runs in the lead overall.
The pendulum was swinging.
The Stags kept running through the tail to dismiss Canterbury a second time, Canterbury losing their last six wickets for just 14 runs.
From what had hours earlier seemed a frustrating position for the Stags, they now had a lively target of 141 to win off a minimum 37 overs - and, were batting before tea.
They sprung a surprise by sending Ajaz Patel out to open with Ben Smith (Greg Hay one of the Stags' catalogue of walking wounded in this match, indisposed with a stomach bug), Patel clipping three boundaries in a quick 16 before Henry Shipley bowled him before the break.
The game was not done with its twists and turns.
The Stags soon lost another three wickets, Will O'Rourke picking up a trio of them - including the big wicket of Will Young, trapped with just under half the run chase ticked off.
Josh Clarkson joined Dane Cleaver at 70/4, and immediately found a four to get off the mark in his special match.
As the first innings maiden centurion got going - smashing three big sixes - the Stags were racing to the finish line, and appropriately it was Clarkson who hit the winning boundary to seal the deal.
The Stags had just taken a big win off the competition leader, to keep their own eyes on the first-class prize.
Canterbury's big lead on the ladder was slashed to just four points, and, the Stags would have a game in hand - with their fifth round cyclone-postponed match against the Aces to be played in Nelson 1-4 April.