Day 3, Plunket Shield
Nelson Park, Napier
The jokes were dime a dozen at Nelson Park, Napier, yesterday on day three of the Plunket Shield match.
A former first-class cricketer, on finding out some faces among Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags were unrecognisable, quipped: "It didn't happen in our time, mate. We took some harden-up pills before we ran on to the field."
Then there was some loose talk about plumbing problems at the park pavilion.
CD coach Alan Hunt, putting on a ghastly face with a matching tone to go with it, said half an hour before the umpires lifted the bails: "It's not humorous at all."
Otago Volts batsmen No 8 Mark Craig and No 9 Ian Butler were hanging in there in the second innings after the southerners were made to follow on not long after play resumed, trailing by about five runs before going on to eclipse CD's first-innings total of 476.
In fairness to Hunt and the CD blokes, it wasn't a laughing matter because everything being equal they probably would have dusted up yesterday for a stroll across the park today for another resounding victory in the four-day first-class match.
The problem? The Kieran Noema-Barnett-captained Stags were falling like flies on the field.
To be more accurate, the day began without veteran batsman Mathew Sinclair who stayed home in Napier after picking up the bot from his son, Liam.
"Skippy's got plumbing problems," Hunt said, finding a jocular vein before adding, "No, he's been ill. He picked up a bug overnight from his boy, Liam, who's been crook, and hasn't been at the park all day."
English import Peter Trego had strained a calf but the CD camp didn't want to risk playing him further with the second HRV Cup Twenty20 televised match looming at McLean Park, Napier, next Friday night.
"He bowled a few overs in the second innings and that was pretty much it," Hunt said of the Somerset county player.
Then it was the turn of Tarun Nethula to make an exit from the field with undoubtedly the most serious of injuries.
"Tarun, just before lunch, dived to save a shot out at mid-off and popped an AC joint.
"He's had an x-ray and our physio tells us he'll be out possibly a month so that's a significant blow."
The next man on the walking wounded list was Noema-Barnett, although he remained on the field to call the shots.
"Kieran blew a calf in just the last half hour but we're not quite sure how bad it is but it's definitely another concern for us."
Hunt telephoned former international and academy coach Brendon Bracewell, in Napier, to find a replacement for Sinclair before play started.
Enter "Aussie Tom".
When Trego hobbled off the park "Aussie Rob", another Bracewell academy lad, was working with some players at the practice nets nearby.
"So ... umm ... we summoned him to cover ... umm ... man, I've just lost ... I have no idea who the players are where but they are all out there," a frustrated Hunt explained.
The long and short of it - 12th man William Young was the first man on the field and assistant coach Lance Hamilton also came to their rescue.
The last time the former Black Caps seamer donned whites was in the summer of 2007.
"Look, Hammer [Hamilton] is warming up now so it looks like he was itching to get on from the start of the day," Hunt said with a grin as Butler departed for two runs after hitting an Andrew Mathieson delivery to substitute fielder Young.
Central Districts chief executive officer Hugh Henderson, who is recovering laser surgery for a hip replacement surgery, said from the comfort of the marquee: "Look, I would have been ready to run, too, if I wasn't on crutches."
With all the parties agreeing to extend play for another half an hour, Otago stuttered to 237-8 and were leading by 18 runs.
All that aside, Hunt was happy with where CD was in the great match.
"One way or other we're set up for another great win tonight."
Rain isn't likely to save the Volts, coming a day too late.
Otago coach Vaughn Johnson's face needed no interpretation about his troops' efforts.
"Mate, we just haven't played good enough. CD have outplayed us in all departments," Johnson said, lamenting the Volts' inability to make the most of a very good batting wicket.
"Some of my players say it's the greatest deck they have ever played on so it's a very disappointing effort up until now."
It is a testimony to head groundsman Phil Stoyanoff who has produced a strip where all three shield matches have produced results.
Johnson said from day one his players had failed to find traction on a wicket that offered them some purchase, after they won the toss and shone the ball.
"The fact is we bowled very poorly. The decision to bowl first was always going to be made by both teams," he said, adding when they had CD at 3-30-odd the decision was justified.
"We weren't consistent with our length and we were too short all day and then we were too short yesterday so you are going to pay for it if you're not accurate.
"The margin for error on a Napier wicket is minimal so you get shown up if you can't hit a length," he said, adamant Otago were mentally not up to what CD had offered.
"I don't think there's technical problems with our batting or our bowling so it's just a little bit of mental softness, really."
Otago only added 25 runs to their overnight total as Butler swung his way to a first-class best 73 not out.
CD paceman Andrew Lamb nabbed the final wicket to end with 2-40 from 16.5 overs as Otago failed to avoid the follow-on.
The bowlers had batted CD into a formidable total yesterday and the unlikely pair of Carl Cachopa and Jeet Raval provided the breakthroughs as Cachopa's medium pace netted him 3-28 from 13 overs while Raval's leg-spinners picked up 2-32 from 17 overs.
Otago closed day three on 237-8 with Mark Craig and Jacob Duffy at the crease on 20 and six, respectively.
Colin Munro hopes his marathon double century yesterday helped move him away from being pigeon-holed as a one-day specialist.
The Auckland Aces allrounder hit an unbeaten 269 as part of a record-smashing 377-run stand for the sixth wicket with Craig Cachopa, as their side took control of the Plunket Shield match against the Wellington Firebirds at Eden Park.