Day 4, Plunket Shield
Nelson Park, Napier
It should have been a walk in the park if the cricket spectators' perspective is a yardstick for proccedings but it turned out to be a bit of a construction work at Nelson Park, Napier, yesterday.
But then, the flip side of that argument is, that's exactly why the 22 blokes with mud-stained whites, fighting fatigue after four laborious days are on the park while the others occupy the cheap seats and parked cars in the face of an unrepentant southerly.
All said and done, the Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags yesterday deservedly beat the Auckland Aces by four wickets for an outright result in their Plunket Shield match.
It was befitting that rookie CD captain Kieran Noema-Barnett, hobbling from a groin injury, and former flatmate and fellow Taradale Cricket Club player Doug Bracewell took to ex-CD seamer Mitchell McClenaghan and veteran spinner Bruce Martin to clinch the Stags' first shield victory of the 2012-13 summer.
It seems the Stags' had shrugged off the pain and agony of losing to the Wellington Firebirds who engaged in foot-stomping celebrations in the bowels of the park pavilion in the opening round here a fortnight ago.
Without doubt, it was a Stags' do yesterday as they broke into a rendition of their own celebratory song in the changing sheds, a vociferous reminder to anyone who cared that it was the green army who initiated a victory chant in New Zealand domestic cricket.
Auckland No 7 Colin Munro and No 9 Michael Bates had put up a mighty rearguard to frustrate the hosts, quashing any complacency of finding a soft underbelly in the Aucklanders' tailenders.
The pair posted the highest eighth-wicket partnership for Auckland against CD of 133 runs.
Munro scored 103 for his second first-class ton from 146 balls, including 13 boundaries, in 206 minutes of defiance on a benign batting crease before Bracewell enticed him into feathering a delivery to wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk. He scored his maiden century against the Otago Volts last summer.
Bates scored 59 runs from 145 balls, including four boundaries, before rejuvenated legspinner Tarun Nethula had him holing out to Bracewell.
Nethula also cleaned up the tail of McClenaghan and Chris Martin cheaply for a team total of 365, leaving CD to chase a target of 146 runs.
As far as CD were concerned, they had their foot on the Aces' throats for three days and thoroughly deserved their victory. No one could possibly argue with that.
"That's the main thing. They had a good day and played well today but at the end of the day we came away with the points, [which is] something we set out to do," Noema-Barnett said, sore but savouring his maiden victory as a skipper.
"Look it's pleasing and it's always good to get your first one out of the way.
"The way we went about it was pretty pleasing, too, because we dominated the first three days and they had a good day today."
Noema-Barnett said the idea was always to knock them off early but batsmen digging their toes in and the wicket playing well made it a little tougher for CD.
"There was a bit of rain around but you can't help that. The boys stuck in there well. We may have lost a little bit of focus but we still came away with a win."
He didn't think time was ever an issue but they respected the Aucklanders' bowling and fielding.
CD No 2 Jeet Raval scored 48 runs from 87 balls before spinner Bruce Martin trapped him lbw, working well with fellow opener Jamie How who added 22 to the partnership.
Noema-Barnett said former Aces player Raval and No 5 Will Young, who contributed 36 runs from 71 balls, applied themselves with aplomb.
The rookie skipper was keeping his fingers crossed for the next shield match against the Northern Districts Knights at the Harry Barker Reserve, Gisborne, starting on Saturday, November 17, before snaking their way up to Seddon Park, Hamilton, to play their opening HRV Cup Twenty/20 match against the same opposition on Friday, November 23.
Auckland yesterday began the day on 210-7 in their second innings, 10 runs behind after they made 210 in their first innings, while CD declared at 430-9 on Monday in their first dig on the foundation of Carl Cachopa's highest first-class score of 179 not out.
If complacency had set in in the bid to eclipse the target of 146 yesterday for victory, Martin would have removed that rapidly afer sending Cachopa back to the pavilion for one run while reliable veteran Mathew Sinclair followed four balls later, leaving the Stags at that juncture on the ropes at 57-3.
Martin finished with 3-44 from 15.2 overs while left-arm seamer McClenaghan closed shop with 3-55 from 16 overs.
CD coach Alan Hunt said it was always a plan to dust up early but one could never expect it because working hard remained the common denominator to gain maximum points.
"To Auckland's credit they worked hard today and then a bit of rain came and we got off the park for a while so there were a few interruptions but, all in all, we got the right result we deserved.
"For all Auckland's efforts today, we held the strong position for three days to get the result we deserved," said Hunt, his weather-bitten face a testimony to playing cricket in wintry temperatures.
Hunt agreed tailenders could never be underestimated.
"We had to get all our players contributing and we saw that in our first innings where we had partnerships right through.
"The brief was that Bates and McClenaghan were to support Munro so Colin played very well for a deserved hundred to make it a little awkward for us."
With the best part of 10 days off, Hunt intended to regroup soon after that to prepare for the T20.
"It's awkward with that - we play a four-dayer then a quick drive for a couple days of twenty/20 then drive back for another four-dayer.
"It's an interesting little period where we have to get selections right with the right number of people so it's a logistical challenge but I'm sure we'll be up for it."
Hunt intended to name the shield team for ND on Monday with Noema-Barnett bracketed in the hope the medical staff will perform some of their magic.
Munro attributed his success to a communal effort: "We sort of got a culture in Auckland where we believe in our mates so we tried to do the job today by putting our heads down to work hard to fight in each over."
Having made some inroads through drinks and lunch, the 25-year-old said the Aces were itching to get their hands on the new ball.
"Batesy is always a good batter down the order. I don't think he gets the rewards being an absolute genuine bowler but in order for him to get up the order he just needs to keep batting the way he is."
Munro grinned when asked if he harboured a desire to shuffle up the order. He replied: "I'm pretty comfortable at No 7 but, hopefully, I can get up the order but maybe the boys at the top can score more runs so I can stay where I am."
Echoing the sentiments of skipper Gareth Hopkins, Munro said the switch from the white ball in the T20 Champions League in South Africa to four-dayers was not an easy transition.
"Plus, we were in the field for 120 to 150 overs so it was kind of hard for the boys going in but we're professional cricketers so we needed to make that transition smoothly although we simply didn't do that in the first innings."
The Aces knew what Raval, who left Auckland after last summer, was capable of while ex-Stag McClenaghan was mindful of what made How tick so the visitors were under no illusions they would have had to "guts it out".
"Once we got a sniff we got some belief so Mitchy bowled an awesome spell of quick, fast bowling on a pretty flat wicket.
"I think the way Dougie and Barney play, they like to hit the ball.
"We knew Barney had an injured his groin so he wasn't going to die lightly so with another 15 to 20 runs to go why not smash it early," he said of the don't-argue finish.