Cricket: Stags unable to stifle stoic Aces

By Sam Hurley

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Stags wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk dives anxiously for a ball on the last day of the Plunket Shield match against Auckland yesterday. Photo/Duncan Brown.
Stags wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk dives anxiously for a ball on the last day of the Plunket Shield match against Auckland yesterday. Photo/Duncan Brown.

Stoic and defiant Auckland defence slammed any hope of Central Districts securing their first Plunket Shield win of the season after failing to grasp the chance to bowl themselves to victory on day four in Napier yesterday.

The Aces, who still languish at the bottom of the competition, began their fightback on day three at Nelson Park by restricting the Stags to 165-7 in their second innings after earlier being bowled out for 351 in reply to CD's first innings total of 467.

Black Cap Martin Guptill top scored in the Aces' first innings with a fluent 185, while speedster Ben Wheeler and spinner Ajaz Patel took three wickets a piece for Central Districts on a flat track.

With a first innings lead of 116 runs, the Stags were always looking to push the pace and set their bowlers up for the win.

Allrounder Peter Trego again shone with the bat, top scoring for the innings with 45 after his swashbuckling 141 in the first dig.

Auckland's bowlers were economical and the constant tumble of wickets, largely in part to the left arm pace and spin duo of Michael Bates and Bruce Martin, kept the Aces in the game.

On day four the match remained in the balance as Central Districts led by 281 runs but with only three second innings wickets in hand. However, Black Caps tailenders Doug Bracewell (36) and Adam Milne (29*) helped push the overall lead to 348 runs with some sensible batting. Bates and Martin both finished with four second innings wickets with swing bowler Bates collecting figures of 4-31 from 22 overs, including 10 maidens.

The Stags bowlers had their chance with 72 overs left in the day to dismiss the Aces for the second time in the match.

Auckland crumbled early under a probing spell from Ben Wheeler who removed both openers, including the in-form Guptill for just five.

Loosing wickets at regular intervals, Auckland's hopes of salvaging a draw were all but dead at 73-6 after 38 overs. But former Black Cap batsman Tim McIntosh, who replaced Anaru Kitchen for the match at the crucial No3 slot, formed a defensive wall with fellow spinner Bruce Martin to deny the Stags for the remaining 34 overs.

The pair made an unbeaten 101 runs for the seventh wicket, but more importantly soaked up 400 minutes and 309 fruitless CD deliveries.

Stags assistant coach Lance Hamilton said he was "disappointed" and "frustrated" not to come away with more than just a few bonus points after having Auckland five down early on.

"It was a typical Nelson Park day four wicket, very flat and once they lost a few early wickets they were just blocking and playing for the draw.

The Stags would have backed themselves to win if they had broken the century stand, knowing only tailenders Michael Bates, Mitchell McClenaghan and Dean Bartlett remained in the shed, none of which are heralded for their batting.

English import Trego capped off an impressive match with 2-26 from nine overs as he tried desperately to force a mistake from the veteran Aucklanders who finished on 174-6. Wheeler was the only other bowler to enjoy some success yesterday with 2-30 from 14 overs, while Black Cap and Taradale allrounder Doug Bracewell went wicketless from 16 overs.

Hamilton who was pleased with the effort his bowlers showed.

Central Districts walks away from the game with eight competition points, while Auckland picks up seven. Neither side has won a match from five attempts so far and fill the bottom two spots on the competition ladder.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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