Cricket: Stars starting to align for Stags

By Anendra Singh

Plunket Shield, day 2

Saxton Oval, Nelson

Make what you want of it but Shaun Tait and Ricky Ponting will resume batting at Saxton Oval, Nelson, today.

That's what Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags opening batsman Jeet Raval will have you believe is happening on the third day of the Plunket Shield match against Northern Districts Knights.

"That's the nicknames for Andrew Mathieson [Tait on six not out] and Andrew Lamb [Ponting on 10 not out]," a jovial Raval said last night not long after stumps as CD amassed 397-7 from 108 overs in their first-innings reply to ND's below-par 267.

Jokes aside, CD have established a 130-run lead on the defending champions on the foundation of a solid opening batting effort.

Two sleeps away from etching their name on the first-class Shield, the Alan Hunt-coached Stags are looking solid but anything can happen in cricket.

If anything, the jocular mood suggests Kieran Noema-Barnett and his men are in a good head space following an HRV Cup Twenty20 campaign to forget.

Left-hander Raval carved up his maiden century for CD yesterday with 121 runs, adding to his four first-class career tons.

The former Auckland Aces man, whose highest score for CD was 77 runs, carved up 19 boundaries from 185 balls in 256 minutes.

Fellow opener Jamie How scored 93 runs from 146 balls in 211 minutes, including 11 boundaries and two sixes.

To the tune of the team mantra of not blowing one's trumpet, Raval said it was great to help the team in their quest of lifting the Shield tomorrow.

That, of course, depends on ND showing some killer instinct to force the game into the fourth day.

Pivotal to CD's confidence is reflected in their consistency to set the pace throughout the competition.

"From day one we've been very, very strong so it's a format that's been working really well for us.

"We have a good attitude and all the boys are stepping up," Raval said.

Perhaps a more accurate assessment is that when front liners such as Carl Cachopa, Mathew Sinclair, How, Kruger van Wyk and Raval have not delivered someone has put their hand up to carry the load.

In his partnership with former Black Cap How, Raval savoured his time with a seasoned campaigner.

"He's very experienced so we just took one ball at a time," he explained, emphasising yesterday's partnership came on the heels of a second-innings dig of 145 against Canterbury Wizards in the previous round.

Logic suggests the pairing will remain in their positions to defend the Ford Trophy although Raval would be required to up the tempo in the 50-over campaign.

"I don't know if I'm in there but I suppose they'll be announcing the squad after the Shield match is over," the Havelock North premier player said.

Yesterday, it wasn't Cachopa or Sinclair's day as they added 23 each to the total.

Noema-Barnett and wicketkeeper Van Wyk added to a wobbly middle order as they came and went in single figures as ND took the new ball.

Black Caps test player Doug Bracewell showed his mental fortitude with a quick-fire 67 from 73 balls, including a dozen fours, to push CD closer to a desirable total.

"Dougie and Tarun had a brilliant partnership in seeing off the new ball," Raval said.

He didn't think How was gutted in losing his wicket seven runs shy of chalking up his 16th first-class century.

Jono Boult took 3-83 while Anuragh Verma and Brent Arnel claimed two each, with the latter claiming his 200th first-class scalp when he dismissed Van Wyk for one run.

Otago Volts, who are hoping the Stags will stumble, marched towards victory at the Basin Reserve against Wellington Firebirds.

The T20 champions amassed 378 in their first innings to post a 123-run lead.

A career-best 152 from Otago opener Aaron Redmond laid the platform for the visitors, while Sam Wells added 81 and Jimmy Neesham produced 48.

Wellington off-spinner Jeetan Patel calmed 5-80 from 40.1 overs.

The hosts closed day two on 33-1, still 90 runs behind.

In the battle of the cellar dwellers at Hagley Oval, Christchurch, Canterbury Wizards racked up 302 in their first innings in reply to Auckland's first dig of 173 on day one. The Aces looked anaemic on 110-7 in their second dig at stumps yesterday, in arrears of 19 runs with three wickets remaining.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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