Day 1, Plunket Shield
Mc Lean Park, Napier
All the media focus was on Ross Taylor's return for the past few days but instead the former captain of New Zealand cricket yesterday found himself a comfortable perch under the main pavilion at McLean Park to savour two little generals in his domestic team showing deft batting skills.
As Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags stuttered to 70-2 at lunch and then looked brittle at 130-5 on the first day of the four-day Plunket Shield match in Napier, No 5 Mathew Sinclair and No 7 Kruger van Wyk showed their experience after only opener Jeet Raval displayed some stickability before departing for a patient 54 from 137 balls.
On that foundation, Sinclair and Van Wyk combined for a 142-run stand for the sixth wicket.
CD captain Kieran Noema-Barnett, who won the toss and stuck with the tradition of padding up, declared at 303-8 in 89.1 overs and had the visitors on 1-1 with former CD representative opener George Worker back under the pavilion after feathering a delivery from Kyle Jarvis to wicketkeeper Van Wyk.
Poor light prompted the umpires to pull stumps after 2.2 overs.
Opener/captain Peter Fulton and No 3 Shanan Stewart were to resume Canterbury's innings this morning although the forecast is for rain clearing with fine spells. It begged the question if 21deg is enough to bake the wicket in favour of the batsmen or leave moisture under the covers to provide seam and swing for CD bowlers.
In his first spell on the crease since he was unceremoniously dumped as New Zealand captain, No 4 Taylor came in at 64-2 but scored only four runs from 26 balls over 27 minutes after tickling a Ryan McCone delivery to wicketkeeper Tom Latham.
Named in the New Zealand XI team to play two Twenty20 matches against the touring England side in a fortnight, neither Taylor nor his teammates or coaching stable will lose sleep over his batting prowess.
Taylor's last turn in the middle was much more successful, scoring a century and leading the Black Caps to a test victory over Sri Lanka in November before Brendon McCullum replaced him as captain in all three forms of the game.
The 28-year-old, unhappy with the way in which New Zealand coach Mike Hesson made the change, opted to take a break from all cricket and sit out the Black Caps' tour to South Africa.
After announcing his intention to return to the national set-up for next month's home series against England, Taylor was left needing match practice with his domestic side before he plays for the New Zealand XI in two warm-up Twenty/20 games.
He may not have managed much time at the crease yesterday but CD looked fine.
"I always take pride in myself to stand up when the team is in trouble," said Van Wyk yesterday after departing for 71 runs from 107 balls in 131 minutes, including nine boundaries.
The former Black Cap, who BJ Watling replaced to the tour of South Africa, fell victim to McCone, edging one to Fulton after the opening seamer took the new ball.
Fellow reliable veteran Sinclair followed a ball later to first-change bowler Andrew Ellis, who trapped him lbw, but not before the 37-year-old top scored with 86 runs from a more sedate rate off 149 balls, digging his heels in for 196 minutes.
The Station Napier Old Boys' Marist player's innings-saving knock included six fours and a six with opener Jamie How scoring the only other six in his seven runs.
Enjoying his partnership with Sinclair, Van Wyk said the wicket had more swing and seam then the traditional benign batting strips at McLean Park.
"I think a 303 not-out total is not bad but we'll only know that tomorrow after they've batted on it," the Ruahine Motors Central Hawke's Bay cricketer said.
Asked why he and Sinclair departed a ball of each other, Van Wyk replied: "I suppose that's just how cricket works."
No doubt both the batsmen were disappointed they didn't go on to make centuries.
"I think between myself, Skippy [Sinclair] or Jeets [Raval], one of us should have gone on to score a hundred."
It's the first shield match at the international ground this summer, following an HRV Cup Twenty/20 against the Wellington Firebirds before Christmas, and Van Wyk said he thoroughly enjoyed playing on the premier ground in the Bay.
"It's a great place to play cricket and the pitch is offering a little to the bowlers and is certainly not flat."
The Stags, he said, had put behind their disappointing T20 campaign of finishing last to switch to first-class mode.
Coach Alan Hunt has plumped for two tweakers in ex-Black Cap legspinner Tarun Nethula and left-armer Ajaz Patel with Roald Badenhorst carrying the drinks.
McCone finished with 3-55, fellow opener Matt McEwan claimed 2-57 and Stewart took 2-21 while Ellis had 1-57.
Van Wyk said the trick for CD's spittle shiners today was to be patient, trying to put it up there rather than bending their backs to claim wickets.
Stead lauded Sinclair and Van Wyk, adding the pair showed if his batsmen dug their toes in then good scores were likely.
"They put us under pressure when the ball got old.
"We bowled exceptionally well in the first session and could have taken two to three more wickets if nicks had gone to hand," the former White Ferns coach lamented.
He bemoaned having to bat in poor light and losing Worker's wicket only to have the game halted a few balls later.
"It's a pity George went out but staying in is part of an opening batsman's batting."
McCone had bowled well all summer while McEwen had made a great debut for Canterbury at any level after one T20 game to his name.
His batsmen needed to apply themselves today after seeing the new ball through.
Elsewhere, the Northern Districts Knights and Otago Volts were firmly in control of their matches against Auckland Aces and Wellington, respectively.
In Hamilton, 22-year-old seamer Anurag Verma took 7-82 in just his second first class game to dismiss Auckland for 240 inside of two sessions.
It could have been even worse for the Aces were it not for Hawaii-born allrounder Dusan Hakaraia. Making his first class debut, Hakaraia came in at No 7 and hit an unbeaten 141 to save his side from potential embarrassment.
In reply, ND looked right at home at Seddon Park, recovering from the early loss of Joseph Yovich to reach 152-1 at stumps. Daniel Flynn (78no) and Brad Wilson (63no) will resume tomorrow morning with the Knights trailing by 88 runs with nine wickets in hand.
It was a similar story in Dunedin, where Blair Soper and James Fuller combined for nine wickets to dismiss Wellington for 254.
Hamish Rutherford's rapid 90 not out made that total seem rather small at stumps, leading Otago to 139-1 and leaving the deficit at 115 runs.