Cricket: Foes come to Stags' do

By Anendra Singh

It was impossible to go past the irony as an outright victory became increasingly unlikely in Nelson.

Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags became the 2012-13 Plunket Shield champions on Saturday at Saxton Oval but the helping hand came from an all-too-familiar foes.

The Wellington Firebirds, who were a persistent thorn in the Stags' backside throughout the entire summer beating them in T20 and first-class matches, did the Alan Hunt-coached CD a huge favour by beating second-placed Otago Volts by 54 runs at the Basin Reserve.

It's not that Stags skipper Kieran Noema-Barnett and his troops couldn't have done the job, but it simply meant the hosts were happy to shake hands for a stalemate with the Northern Districts Knights who had continued their fightback on Saturday morning before declaring at 435-9 with James Marshall unbeaten on 156 and No 10 Ish Sodhi adding 51.

"It was good of them, wasn't it?" Hunt said of Wellington who skittled Otago for 145 in pursuit of 200 for victory on the final day, scuttling the Volts' hopes of pulling back CD's marginal lead.

CD, chasing 285 for an outright win from 59 overs, pulled the stumps at 116-2 with opener Jamie How unbeaten on 84 in 22 overs.

The CD camp, having an eye on the Otago game, learned 40 minutes before tea that the Volts were in dire straits.

"The wicket was good and we had four and a half hours left if we'd batted sensibly so we'll never know if we'd have won but we gave ourselves a good chance to do it," Hunt said as CD lifted the shield of first-class supremacy for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

For the Stags it was an amazing turnaround from a mediocre HRV Cup Twenty/20 campaign that saw them finish rock bottom with Otago claiming the lucrative spoils.

Hunt said CD played deft first-class cricket from the beginning and backed it up with impetus in the end.

"We had three or four wins post-Christmas so we were good for it, playing some excellent cricket."

He lauded Marshall for his knock and ND for not rolling over.

"They kept building so we had more tension in the camp."

Hunt emphasised every player had contributed in the shield campaign despite match-winning knocks and wicket hauls from individuals.

CD were going to focus on defending the one-day Ford Trophy today after a day off yesterday to celebrate.

It is just returns for the Stags who have lost a swag of experienced players such as former Black Caps batsman Peter Ingram and seamer Michael Mason.

Canterbury beat Auckland by nine wickets on Friday in the final round's other match to leave the Aces with the wooden spoon.

Champions CD host ND at the same venue from tomorrow in the 50-over format.

Paceman Andrew Lamb and spinner Ajaz Patel miss out on the one-day squad for the opening two games as Black Cap batsman Ross Taylor returns before the test series against England resumes.

Final shield standings: CD Stags 132, Otago 122, ND 100, Wellington 89, Canterbury 88, Auckland 69.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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