Tim Southee's first 50-over half century for Northern Districts was just the ticket to carry his team to a memorable three-wicket win over Auckland at Seddon Park yesterday.
New Zealand's test bowling spearhead warmed up for the first test against England next week with an unbeaten 66 off 45 balls to push ND to 294 for seven - replying to Auckland's 290 - with 10 balls left to go top of the Ford Trophy after two rounds.
Test batsman Kane Williamson's run-a-ball 92 had set up the chance for ND, but had Southee not received valuable help from fellow seamer Graeme Aldridge, Auckland would most likely have made it two wins from as many games.
Southee and Aldridge set an ND eighth-wicket record with their 93-run stand off only 68 balls, eclipsing the old mark of 75 by Cliff Dickeson and Murray Child, also against Auckland in 1980-81.
Southee hit nine fours and two sixes, and coupled with some strong bowling form since returning from his thumb injury around Christmas, looks well primed for University Oval and England.
Earlier Anaru Kitchen's second List A century, 104 off 100 balls, set up Auckland nicely. But from 166 for two after 30 overs, they didn't cash in as they might have. Kyle Mills got early wickets when ND's reply began, but Southee and the veteran Aldridge had the final say.
Southee's effort notwithstanding, the batting award for the rounds goes to Wellington opener Michael Papps, who is in rampant form. Having hit 162 not out in Wellington's substantial, and successful chase to beat Otago on Tuesday, Papps took 154 off Central Districts from only 130 balls yesterday. However his 11th domestic one-day ton wasn't enough, as CD got their first points with a 10-run win.
CD's 302 for seven included notable hands from allrounder Kieran Noema-Barnett and test batsman Ross Taylor, both of whom made 60s. Wellington needed 88 off the final eight overs and fell just short.
Canterbury are on the board after a 106-run win over Otago in Christchurch. Opener George Worker's 95 - just shy of his third century - Shanan Stewart's brisk 75 and 44 from Andrew Ellis got the hosts to 283 for seven.
Otago were rolled for 177 in the 39th over. Apart from Derek de Boorder's 58, no one got established for Otago. Seamer Matt Henry was in sharp form, taking five for 27. In Sunday's third round, Auckland visit Wellington; CD host Canterbury in Nelson; and ND play Otago in Invercargill.