Plenty of great statchat but not joy for the Stags | MBUTCHER

Last-day rain frustrates ND, Central Stags




Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui

29 February - 3 March 2024


Wellington Firebirds: 17

Canterbury: 8

Auckland Aces: 8 

Central Stags: 7

Otago Volts: 7

Northern Districts: 5


100th first-class fixture between Northern Districts and Central Stags

Angus Schaw - first-class debut

Angus Schaw - century on first-class debut

Bharat Popli - eight first-class century (fifth against the Stags)

Ajaz Patel - 350th first-class wicket

Ajaz Patel - career best bowling for Central Stags, 7/78

All images: MBUTCHER


A delicious encounter at Bay Oval pitted the defending first-class champion, the Central Stags against the current season’s leader Northern Districts as the Plunket Shield resumed after the white-ball summer.

Halfway through the championship, just 17 points separated the two teams, the Stags looking to gain ground from third on the table in a key clash.

The injury-hit Stags were without some of their regular key performers in Tom Bruce (who was playing T20s in Bangladesh), Josh Clarkson, Brett Randell and Doug Bracewell, and brought in uncapped 29-year-old Angus Schaw to make his debut.

Northern Districts had also named an uncapped player in their squad in Josh Brown who would carry the drinks in the 100th first-class fixture between these teams since they started playing each other in late 1956.

After three days, and each side had produced a centurion amid a special match for Stags spinner Ajaz Patel, and Central had a good chance as they built a handy overall lead with wickets in hand.

But weather would deny both teams at Bay Oval on the last day - ND also losing their Plunket Shield leader's spot to the Wellington Firebirds, who had meanwhile snatched the only outright of the fifth round.



On a sunny Mount morning Central Stags captain Greg Hay finally won a toss at his fifth attempt of this summer, and elected to bat at a warm Bay Oval.

He brought an uncapped player, previously seen only in a handful of white-ball matches for the side, into the playing XI as the first-class season resumed.

Spinning allrounder Angus Schaw was a popular Hawke's Bay stalwart and captain from Central Hawke's Bay country, and a member of the Stags' (uncontracted) wider squad.

On the cusp of his 30th birthday, he had worked hard for the opportunity to wear the baggy green for the first time in the Plunket Shield - following in the footsteps of his cousin, Robbie Schaw, who played 18 first-class matches for the team in the late 2000s.

By lunch, the Stags were off to a good start at 126/1, youngster Curtis Heaphy (72) and captain Hay (53) both having reached their half centuries in a 116-run second wicket partnership.

Hay would fall soon after lunch, however, as a flurry of wickets brought ND's shoulders back up. By tea, the Stags were 199/5, Will Clark holding the reins with the new man, debutant Schaw.

Northern had a chance to take control of the Stags but Schaw would bat through the entire last session. Clark went on to his career best score and maiden half century with 57 in more than two hours in the middle, the pair working up an 89-run stand.

Quick Matt Fisher had already snaffled two wickets for ND, including the first breakthrough in the frustrating morning session, both teams untidy in the field over the course of the match as the red-ball season restarted.

Joe Walker | MBUTCHER

He finally got Clark at 276/6, and Northern had a chance, now, to attack the tail.

But the Stags tail was about to wag determinedly in support of Schaw who batted through the last session to reach stumps unbeaten on 52.

The debutant's patience added to Heaphy, Hay and Will Clark's half centuries, a career-best 57 from allrounder Clark also being his maiden half ton in this format.

The Central Stags reached 317/7 by stumps.


The Central Stags are making a habit of racking up centuries on first-class debut, late bloomer Angus Schaw beciming the latest to join the exclusive club, and second at Bay Oval in recent seasons.

Schaw joined Stags Don Macleod (1956/57), Henry Sampson (1970/71), his teammate in this match, Brad Schmulian (2017/18 at Bay Oval, in a New Zealand record double century on debut), and another contracted Stag from Hawke's Bay in Bayley Wiggins (2021/22).

Wiggins was about to join the team in Bay Oval as a replacement 12th man, following the concussion substitution of Blair Tickner who had been hit on the back of the neck while batting with his good mate Schaw, to whom he had presented Stags cap 309.

Schaw batted for almost five hours across the first two days for his maiden 114, supported by career-best knocks from Clark (with his maiden half ton the previous day) and now Tickner (42).

Tickner initially carried on after having been struck as he tried to avoid a short delivery. He went on to bowl six overs at Northern Districts after the end of the Stags innings, and dropped a caught and bowled opportunity before coming off with delayed concussion.

His place in the attack would be taken by left-arm spinner Jayden Lennox (initially 12th man) as the official concussion substitute player.

After Tickner was dismissed short of his maiden half century, Liam Dudding took the baton and held the fort for a further three quarters of an hour. Dudding almost reached his own career best, dismissed just one run shy.

The wagging had allowed the Stags to reel in a full set of four batting bonus points by reaching 350 inside 110 overs and they were eventually all out for a good total of 427. Fisher finished with 4/100 off his 27 overs, while Joe Walker picked up three.

By stumps, Northern Districts' top order batters had carved that deficit down to 257.

A century stand between opener Henry Cooper (83) and Bharat Popli (72 not out, above) for the second wicket had been the highlight, getting them off to a decent start while the Stags suffered from a rash of the dropsies.


Left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel became the second most successful first-class wicket-taker in the Central Stags’ 74-year team history, as Central turns the screws on ND - despite yet another century against them from local run machine, first drop Bharat Popli.

With his best figures yet in the Plunket Shield championship, Patel overtook retired seamer Michael Mason’s 263 wickets when he had allrounder Brett Hampton caught at slip by Clark — the wicket also conferring Patel’s 26th first-class bag (19th for the Stags).

Bowling a marathon stint to help make up for the absence of Tickner in the attack, Patel went on to add the last two Northern Districts wickets to his bag to finish with 7/78.

It was his first haul of seven in the national first-class arena cementing a 96-run first-innings lead for the Stags.

Elegant ND first drop Bharat Popli meanwhile achieved his eighth first-class century, top-scoring for Northern with 111 in their first innings reply of 331.

It was not only Popli’s fifth first-class century against the Stags, but the second at his hometown home ground - and eighth in the Plunket Shield overall. The Stags were his favourite team to play, surely.

Popli hit 13 boundaries and a six in his knock which, along with Cooper's 83 on the previous day, were the only substantial scores in the innings, in the face of a Patel special.

Popli would fall before lunch, by which time ND was still well placed at 241/5. But Patel owned the middle session, and by tea the hosts were all out of 331 in their 126.5 overs.

By stumps, the Stags' lead had grown to 213, reaching 117/2.

Heaphy had reached his second half century of the game with an unbeaten 58* and Hay would have been planning for the chance to declare and let loose Patel again on the fourth day.


Light rain moved in during the night and settled, with no play at all possible in Mount Maunganui on the final day where the clouds covered the sky and Stags had held a 213-run overall lead, with eight wickets in hand.

After an early lunch, the captains shook hands mid-afternoon - ND taking 5 bonus points and the Stags 7 from the first innings, but denied the 12 for a possible outright win.


Wellington Firebirds: 17
Canterbury: 8
Auckland Aces: 8 
Central Stags: 7
Otago Volts: 7
Northern Districts: 5


POINTS TABLE after 5 of 8 championship rounds

Wellington Firebirds 64

Northern Districts 63

Central Stags 50

Canterbury 44

Otago Volts 27

Auckland Aces 25






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