Cricket: Wheeler straight back into groove

By Anendra Singh

Plunket Shield, day 1

Saxton Oval, Nelson

The blokes fielding at Saxton Oval, Nelson, were oblivious to what was unfolding and it would have been no different for Black Cap Ross Taylor occupying the batting crease at McLean Park, Napier, yesterday afternoon.

Suffice it to say the players had their minds on the job and both parties would have come off the field pretty chuffed at the end of the proceedings in their respective innings.

No doubt, Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags and CD batsman Taylor (who scored a century for New Zealand) would have got their fingers on the pulse later last night.

CD, hosting the Northern Districts Knights on the first day in the final round of the four-day Plunket Shield match, skittled the visitors for what can best be considered a below-par 267 in 85.4 overs after captain Kieran Noema-Barnett won the toss and had them padding up.

ND's scoreboard resembled a supermarket grocery bill, with batsmen making starts but not showing any modicum of stickability.

Only No 4 Dean Mitchell and No 6 James Marshall showed any intent, making 72 and 54 runs, respectively.

While the bowlers hunted as a pack and frugally bar Andrew Lamb, comeback kid Ben Wheeler was the pick of the Stags with 3-35 from 15.4 overs, including three maidens.

"I'm just glad to be back on the park and playing again," the 21-year-old opening bowler said last night after returning to the fold of the Alan Hunt-coached Stags from injury.

The Havelock North premier cricketer has been out of the mix since November after he tore his lower abdominal muscle.

"I had to rest it for six weeks because it wasn't healing quick enough," said the left-arm medium/fast seamer who missed the HRV Cup Twenty/20 campaign but is banking on staying around to help CD defend the one-day Ford Trophy.

"It was a slow process getting some strength and movement back," he said, coming off a six-week stint with his Hawke's Bay club side.

Averaging just one wicket in about five premier club matches, a frustrated Wheeler didn't despair considering his deliveries were probably too good for batsmen at that level.

"I'm 100 per cent now because if I wasn't I wouldn't be selected to play at this level," he said with a laugh when asked how he felt after the hiatus.

CD, three days away from winning the bragging rights to the first-class competition, were 46 without loss of wickets at stumps.

Openers Jeet Raval (27 not out) and Jamie How (17no) were to resume batting today.

"Tomorrow we can, hopefully, post a good score," Wheeler said, adding a 350-400 total should be in the offing.

Test international Doug Bracewell took 2-53 from 19 overs, including five maidens while Andrew Mathieson claimed 2-42 from 16 overs, including two maidens.

Legspinner Tarun Nethula took 1-36 from 13 overs, including two maidens.

Former New Zealand under-19 captain/batsman William Young is running out the snake lollies after returning from injury.

All the focus will be on No 3 batsman Carl Cachopa, though, as he prepares for the New Zealand XI match against England in Queenstown on Wednesday next week.

An unlikely spell of bowling from Shanan Stewart has put Canterbury in a great position against Auckland after day one of their Plunket Shield clash at Hagley Oval in Christchurch.

Both teams are vying to avoid the wooden spoon, and Canterbury won the toss and invited the visitors to bat yesterday morning.

Auckland started cautiously but when Stewart was thrown the ball all hell broke loose.

The 30-year-old, who only had 12 first-class wickets next to his name heading in to the match, completed a triple-wicket maiden and had figures of 5-7 from 7.1 overs at the lunch interval.

Auckland were reduced to 87-6 after the first session and were eventually bowled out for 173 after Colin de Grandhomme (38) and Michael Bates (27) added to Anaru Kitchen's earlier effort of 41.

Canterbury then proved there weren't too many demons in the pitch as they made their way to 128-1 at the end of the day with Peter Fulton unbeaten on 80.

The home side will look to pitch a tent at the crease tomorrow and bat Auckland out of the contest.

At the Basin Reserve, Wellington's mixed season continued as they only mustered 255 in their first innings after losing the toss and being put in to bat by Otago.

Opener Michael Papps made 63 for the Wellingtonians as he and opening partner Josh Brodie (37) put on 99 for the first wicket but the rest of the side failed to take advantage of the solid platform they were given.

Additional reporting APNZ

- Hawkes Bay Today

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