Anendra Singh: Stags read riot act to ND

By Anendra Singh

Just like the script of a horror movie, the ending should be predictable.

The goodies have cheated death by the skin of their teeth but the film concludes with the baddies dropping enough hint that a sequel will be coming to your neighbourhood in the next summer.

In that vein, one would expect the Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags to sleepwalk their way like zombies to a take-that outright victory when play resumes this morning in Gisborne against defending Plunket Shield champions the Northern Districts Knights.

You also expect coach Alan Hunt to be a bit guarded in his response to how the script may play out on the final day today at the Harry Barker Reserve because - yes, you guessed it - we all know anything can happen in cricket.

But no, Hunt last night didn't play the let's-tread-on-egg shells-approach - perhaps the memory of the loss in the opening match to Wellington was still fresh and then there was the fightback from the Auckland Aces on the final day to contend with, too, in Napier.

"We should do [sleepwalk our way to a victory today]," Hunt said with an air of finality before qualifying, "We're not going to be assuming anything because there's still a bit of work to do."

The Knights batsmen yesterday continued to fall like flies as the CD seam attack of Ben Wheeler and Adam Milne took control with four wickets each.

The hosts resumed on day three yesterday on 341-9 but failed to add a single run to their overnight total when Brent Arnel bowled Black Cap Milne at No 11 for a first-class best of 38.

The first-innings lead of 158 looked gettable but the Stags, true to the words of opening batsman Jeet Raval, were itching to get their hands on the new ball.

Predictably it was good night nurse as ND were only marginally better than when they were rolled for 183 on day one.

The visitors, marching out to the crease with the best intentions in their second dig to erase the impending heavy deficit, were in serious trouble at 81-6, before Daryl Mitchell (83) found support in lower-order batsmen Graeme Aldridge who made 38 and spinner Ish Sodhi who racked up a neat 50.

Aldridge passed 2000 runs in his lengthy first-class career when he was on 34, while Sodhi and Mitchell's knocks were their highest scores in four-day cricket.

Milne (4-53) and fellow pace bowler Wheeler (4-38) were relentless for CD as they eventually bowled ND out for 252, which left them in need of 95 runs for an outright victory.

Central openers Jamie How and Havelock North premier batsman Raval must have dreaded padding up for one over at the end of the day but each made a solitary run to survive unscathed and will resume today at 2-0 to chase down a lead of just 95 runs.

Hunt said yesterday's conditions were testing for the opening batsmen.

"At lunch it looked like we might finish the game but to ND's credit they applied themselves and showed skills to establish a lead of 90-odd runs.

"They did well to scrap back but we were all over them."

Reiterating his stance, Hunt felt the Kieran Noema-Barnett-skippered Stags had to get the job done today to claim 12 outright points from the match.

Winning the toss on day one was vital but Hunt said the bowlers still had the demanding task of putting the ball in the right areas to claim wickets cheaply.

"There was a lot of rain two days before the game and I believe the pitch was under water for a while because they received up to 150 mils of rain in some areas."

Hunt felt if his top order bat well today the game should be over by lunchtime.

It pleased him immensely that in this match CD had contributed as a collective, with batsmen making cameo contributions throughout the first innings.

The bowlers, he felt, had also attacked like a pack of dogs to ensure the ND batsmen were never at ease on the batting crease.

Hunt would have like Milne and No 6 Smith (64 not out) to add a few more runs yesterday morning but Milne fell on the last ball of the second over.

"It's nice to get more runs to give bowlers more time then just 10 minutes to prepare.

"One hour and a few more runs would have been better but, hey, there are no guarantees in this game."

He was pleased for Smith who, in his first game this summer as wicketkeeper, had claimed seven catches behind the stumps and also played a decisive knock in the first innings.

Smith is an understudy to Black Caps wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk, who also plays for Ruahine Motors Central Hawke's Bay.

"He hasn't dropped one catch in this game, either, so he's got the job against Otago."

According to an APNZ report, Wellington fast bowler Mark Gillespie blasted 77 from No 11 to break an 85-year-old record for the province as they could only muster 239 on day one of their Plunket Shield match against Canterbury in Rangiora yesterday.

With his side in dire trouble at 126-9, Gillespie strode to the crease to join No 10 Andy McKay and plundered four sixes and nine fours in a whirlwind 63-ball knock that set a new mark for the highest score from No 11 for Wellington.

Gillespie's 77 bettered the previous record of 70 that was struck by William Brice in the 1926-27 season, while Gillespie and McKay's partnership of 113 was a new benchmark for the 10th wicket for Wellington against Canterbury.

Earlier in the day, Canterbury captain Peter Fulton won the toss and invited the visitors to bat at the Mainpower Oval and no Wellington batsman managed to pass 31 before it was left to McKay (33 not out) and Gillespie to perform an unlikely rescue mission.

On-and-off New Zealand player Andrew Ellis was the chief destroyer for Canterbury as he nabbed 6-58 as Wellington failed to build any meaningful partnerships at the top of their innings.

Canterbury then began their innings in poor fashion as George Worker and Shanan Stewart were back in the pavilion with only five runs on the board before Fulton and Dean Brownlie steadied the ship.

Brownlie finished the day unbeaten on 53, while Fulton, who made two centuries in the same match against Otago last week, was an immovable object as he worked his way to 32.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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