Cricket: Lost toss has Stags on back foot

By Anendra Singh

Plunket Shield

Eden Park Outer Oval

That Gareth Hopkins knows the wicket like the back of his hand explains why he chose to bowl on winning the toss yesterday.

But there's always the element of application. That is, did the Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags show patience on the batting crease with what would seemingly be a below-par 233 all out in just 57.3 overs.

With the Auckland Aces 147-3 at stumps at Eden Park No2, coach Alan Hunt said it was definitely a bowl-first wicket.

An Aucklander, Hunt also knows the hosts have a penchant for leaving a bit of lush growth on the strip that tends to yield wickets on the first day.

"We could have probably played a little better at times and gave away a couple of wickets but the toss was crucial in the scheme of things."

In CD's first innings, captain Kieran Noema-Barnett top-scored with a quick-fire 67 from 66 balls, including 11 boundaries and a lusty six.

"Barney stayed positive and took his opportunities with hard work to lead by example," Hunt said, after CD's top five batsmen crumbled for 72 in a shade over 20 overs.

No4 Ross Taylor got over the 20-run mark, before Colin de Grandhomme trapped him lbw.

With the media expecting dumped Black Caps captain Taylor to pull a rabbit out of the hat to national applause in injecting hope in the country's mediocre test performance in South Africa, it seems the CD batsman is quite content to not bow to outside pressure.

CD sports psychologist Gary Hermansson emphasised last round that Taylor, returning from a self-imposed exile since his dumping, scored 56 runs in the second innings in the victory against Canterbury Wizards last week at McLean Park, Napier.

Kyle Jarvis, expressing the freedom of a No11, smashed 45 from 52 balls for CD, including eight boundaries, with No9 Tarun Nethula contributing a patient 25.

"Jarvey and Tarun batted well to add 70-odd otherwise we could have been worse off so their knock was valuable," Hunt said of the tail-enders.

Auckland seamer Michael Bates took 4-44 from 9.3 overs, including a maiden, after passing his fitness test in the morning following an injury in the drubbing against Northern Districts Knights the previous round in Hamilton.

Veteran Black Caps opening bowler Chris Martin finished with 3-67 from 16 overs in a disciplined attack from the Aucklanders who gifted only four no balls amid zero wides.

In the hosts' innings, opener Michael Guptill-Bunce scored 47 from 58 balls, including nine fours.

No4 Craig Cachopa (40 runs, including five boundaries and a six) and No5 Gareth Hopkins (10) will resume today.

Hunt said the Stags had dropped Cachopa and, to add to their disappointment, the umpire had turned down a leg-before-wicket appeal on captain Hopkins after a delivery from opening bowler Jarvis.

CD, on the top rung of the shield table, were not panicking, with Hunt predicting the wicket was flattening out with three days left.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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