Cricket: Only ND in way of CD lifting shield

By Anendra Singh

The margin has narrowed to nine points but suffice it to say a lead's a lead going into the final round of the Plunket Shield competition.

Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags yesterday beat the Canterbury Wizards by four wickets at Rangiora in enough time to enable CD captain Kieran Noema-Barnett to have a round of golf in the afternoon.

"You've got to have some relaxation time because it can be quite tough," CD coach Alan Hunt said as the Stags go into the final round of the first-class competition at Saxton Oval, Nelson, to host the Northern Districts Knights.

Roald Badenhorst will be missing on that flight today but Ben Wheeler and William Young are in the mix after injury lay-offs.

With the Otago Volts nipping at their heels, Hunt said it was imperative CD focused on simply winning the game against ND on Wednesday.

Interestingly, he pointed out ND claimed the shield last summer with four victories from 10 matches but CD had registered six wins this summer and still had a game to play for the bragging rights.

The Volts, who play the Wellington Firebirds at the Basin Reserve, have five wins.

Chasing 256 for victory, CD yesterday resumed at 156-3 after a great first-wicket partnership between Jamie How, who scored a quick-fire 81 runs from 91 balls, while Jeet Raval, at a more sedate pace, contributed 51 having faced as many deliveries.

"How and Raval's partnership was something special because they scored the runs in pretty quick time," Hunt said.

Although Mathew Sinclair was out for 53, fellow veteran and former Black Cap Kruger van Wyk defiantly scored 29 not-out to the tune of Noema-Barnett's brisk 18 to ensure CD retained their perch on the top rung of the ladder.

Canterbury's Matt McEwan claimed three scalps.

It pleased Hunt his men showed character and a steely resolve to dig their toes in again on what turned out to be a "testy and up-and-down" wicket at Mainpower Oval.

"You can see from the first innings where the guys got starts but went out."

When a team bowls the opposition out twice in a four-day affair in the vicinity of 250, Hunt said, a coach couldn't complain.

"We'll need to be clinical in everything we do," he said, mindful the Knights were coming off two wins in a row but CD have had three on the trot.

However, while Black Caps test opener Doug Bracewell was no doubt in fine form with the ball and the bat he wanted his troops to up the tempo on Wednesday.

"We need to improve on our last game because we didn't perform to our standards."

While pleased with the bowlers, he felt the batsmen were only firing at 60 per cent of their ability.

With the Saxton Oval re-laid this summer, Hunt was loathe to predict what the wicket would offer but suspected it wouldn't have much of a green tinge on it although it would offer some seam.

Otago needed one ball to hit their required target of four for a crushing 10-wicket win over Auckland at the University Oval in Dunedin.

The southerners' whopping 569-8 declared in their first innings set up the win as Auckland could only muster 351 in their second dig to leave Otago a four-run target.

At Cobham Oval, Whangarei, ND beat Wellington by five wickets to consolidate their hold on third place.

Needing 148 for victory yesterday, ND began the morning on 3-0 and after losing a couple of early wickets, No4 Daryl Mitchell made an unbeaten 51 to guide them to victory.

Mitchell's knock backed up his first-innings effort of 136, while he also had useful support from youngster Corey Anderson who added a valuable 35.

Wellington seamer Mark Gillespie picked up 3-44.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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