Plunket Shield strugglers Auckland and Wellington look set for a thrilling final day of their encounter at the Basin Reserve, with all three possible outcomes in play. Auckland held a lead of 153 runs with five wickets in hand at the close of the third day, with both sides seeking to keep pace with the competition front-runners.
A win would lift either side into fourth, while a draw would end the teams' faint chances of hauling in leaders Central Districts with two rounds to play.
After Wellington resumed their first innings this morning on 368-6, the final four wickets fell for 58 runs to hand the hosts an 80-run lead. Centurion Luke Ronchi (135) was the opening man out, the first of three victims for Kyle Mills as the seamer ensured his side were back at the crease inside the first session.
Auckland's second innings got off to the worst possible start when Michael Guptill-Bunce was bowled by Mark Gillespie from the first ball and, after Gillespie trapped Anaru Kitchen in front, the visitors slumped to 13-2 at lunch. Craig Cachopa became Gillespie's third victim shortly after the break as Wellington looked set to make light work of the Aces. But a 115-run stand between opener Michael Barry and wicketkeeper Gareth Hopkins resurrected their innings, before Barry (77) was run out by Michael Pollard.
Colin de Grandhomme (36) was trapped in front by Gillespie two overs before the close of play, leaving Hopkins (92no) and Dusan Hakaraia (0no) to either dig in and avoid defeat or attack in the hope of setting up a victory today.
Meanwhile, at Hagley Oval in Christchurch, Northern Districts needed only six overs to seal a six-wicket win over Canterbury and move to third on the standings. New Zealand wicketkeeper BJ Watling (75no) and James Marshall (36no) quickly added the 47 runs needed to overhaul their target of 214. APNZ