ND fight back but smart money must be on Stags' glory

By ANENDRA SINGH sports editor

Day 3, Plunket Shield

Saxton Oval, Nelson

IT'S up there with "definitely" and "mate" in sports interviews - "not getting too far ahead of ourselves", that is.

Frustrating as it may be to many scribes, the catchphrase has a degree of relevance to Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags as they enter the final day of their four-day Plunket Shield match at Saxton Oval, Nelson, today.

The anxiety crept in after a record fifth-wicket partnership of 155 between Northern Districts Knights' Corey Anderson (89 runs) and James Marshall (94 not out) against CD.

"That nearly killed us," veteran CD batsman Mathew Sinclair said last night as ND established a 134-run lead with four wickets in hand after finding themselves at 109-4.

The breakthrough came courtesy of the new ball when test seamer Doug Bracewell had Anderson feathering a delivery to wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk.

Throwing down the gauntlet at the end of a dismal HRV Cup Twenty/20 campaign, Sinclair had stated nothing short of winning the shield and defending their one-day Ford Trophy bragging rights this summer would whet their appetite.

The 37-year-old remained steadfast on the declaration although, understandably, the Alan Hunt-coached Stags couldn't get too far ahead of themselves until the conclusion of today's play in the first-class format.

The smart money should be on Central Districts keeping veteran Marshall off strike while knocking off the rabbits in comfortable time before chasing down the total with minimum palpitations.

"Ideally we should have them all back in the pavilion for 150 or under and that would be fantastic," he said before balancing that with ND's tailenders doing their utmost to ensure Marshall marches on to make his ton to ensure not only he but the visitors' finish their shield campaign on a high.

The Stags came into the final round knowing a win would hand them their first four-day title since 2006, with second-placed Otago Volts' hopes resting with ND.

The Volts are on the verge of beating Wellington after three days of their match at the Basin Reserve but that will come to nought unless  ND mount some rearguard action.

One of the rabbits, spinner Ish Sodhi, is not a done deal today after straining his quad which ruled him out of selection for the New Zealand XI match against England on Wednesday.

Sinclair said the three-day baked wicket was still providing bowlers some purchase.

For someone who has been part of several shield-winning teams, he believes the senior players, such as Jamie How, Jeet Raval and himself, must ensure they don't let the pressure of chasing down a total fall on their tailenders.

Equally significant is ensuring the fielding is military-like because every ball cut off will mean fewer runs to chase down today.

When CD resumed batting yesterday morning, No 10 Andrew Lamb and No 11 Andrew Mathieson, were out for 18 and 19 not out, respectively.

"Andrew ran hard all day and bowled with no rewards," Sinclair said of the seamer who finished with 0-54 off 19 overs, including three maidens.

The pick of the bowlers were Ben Wheeler (3-41) and Bracewell (2-57) while captain Kieran Noema-Barnett oozed frugality with 1-10 from as many overs, including six maidens.

The Stags last won the shield in 2005-06 under coach Graham Barlow when they beat Wellington in the capital city in the final round.

Today, Noema-Barnett and his men will throw the kitchen sink.

They'll have to because anything shy of victory will see the Volts add to their domestic trophy cabinet this summer.

Otago will today need one more wicket as Wellington were leading by 185 runs, so the chase should be elementary.

Wellington resumed their second innings yesterday morning on 33-1, trailing by 90 runs, and stumbled their way towards making up the deficit.

Three wickets from Neil Wagner had the Firebirds on 92-4, before Luke Woodcock (62), Scott Kuggeleijn (68) and Jeetan Patel (53no) offered some resistance.

In Christchurch yesterday, the Gary Stead-coached Canterbury made light work of Auckland at Hagley Oval to consign the Auckland Aces to bottom dwellers.

Two poor performances with the bat capped an unsuccessful season for the Gareth Hopkins-captained Aces in which the Paul Strang-coached side won only two of 10 games, while Canterbury's nine-wicket victory saw them rise to third.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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