Central Districts have stormed to the top of the Plunket Shield standings after completing an 81-run win over Canterbury in Napier today.
After Otago wrapped up a huge victory over Wellington yesterday to temporarily take control of the competition, the Stags responded by successfully defending 332 runs on the fourth day.
CD (92 points) and Otago (77) have now established a large lead in the four-day competition, though they have both played a game more than the other four sides.
The Stags' triumph today was set up by debutant spinner Ajaz Patel, who ripped through the Canterbury lineup to finish with figures of 6-57. Patel was wicketless in the first innings but found much more success on a McLean Park wicket which began to turn more as the game wore on.
After beginning the day on 88-1 and still requiring 244 runs to win, things quickly went downhill for Canterbury. Seamer Kyle Jarvis made the early inroads, dismissing Shanan Stewart without adding to his overnight score before claiming a return catch from Peter Fulton (59) to reduce the Wizards to 103-3.
New Zealand batsman Dean Brownlie became Patel's first wicket of the day, edging one to Ross Taylor at slip to fall for 26, before Tom Latham was also deceived by the tweaker.
Proceeding were evenly poised at lunch, with Canterbury needing 164 with five wickets in hand, but their visitors' prospects became dire when Tarun Nethula induced a nick from Andrew Ellis.
Patel then rammed home the advantage, taking the next three wickets to fall in the space of 32 runs, before Jeet Raval wrapped things up to dismiss Canterbury for 250.
CD will attempt to retain their competition lead when they travel to Eden Park to face fourth-placed Auckland in their next match on Wednesday.
- APNZBy Kris Shannon Email Kris