Wellington dragged themselves off the bottom of the Plunket Shield four-day cricket table with a Neal Parlane-inspired win over Auckland while Otago fell two runs short of outright victory against Canterbury in a thrilling finish to the fourth round of matches today.
Chasing 276 for victory on the fourth day here at the Basin Reserve, the hosts were stumbling at 144 for five but captain Parlane struck a superb unbeaten 127 and wicketkeeper Joe Austin-Smellie (63 not out) stayed with him as Wellington reached their target with five wickets to spare.
Their first outright win of the season took them to 10 points, 16 behind leaders Central Districts with six rounds to go, and would have brought much cheer to a dressing room which has endured plenty of torrid times this season after poor Twenty20 and one-day campaigns.
Auckland resumed today on 238 for seven and declared their second innings at 277 for nine, Wellington left-armer Andy McKay finishing with five for 92 to go with his four-wicket haul in the first innings.
Otago were on track for an unlikely victory at the Queenstown Events Centre after both teams played ball to set up an exciting final day.
Otago declared on their overnight total of 241 for three and in the process handed the two first innings points to the visitors.
Canterbury rattled up 89 for two in 15 overs before declaring their second innings, leaving the hosts 345 to win from 90 overs. They ended on 343 for seven, but blew their chance of gaining six points after being comfortably placed at 234 for one with 30 overs remaining.
Captain Craig Cumming was again the star of the day and completed a fine match by cracking 127, backing up his unbeaten first dig of the same score that saw him surpass Bert Sutcliffe as Otago's most prolific century-maker.
His 19th ton for the province today saw him join Sutcliffe, Glenn Turner, Ken Rutherford and Greg Todd in the group of Otago batsmen who have scored centuries in each innings of a first-class match.
But the 35-year-old will be reflecting on six points that got away after the home team stumbled in the last hour, with No 3 Shaun Haig, who was 94 not out at the close, unable to guide the southerners to victory.
Central Districts could only manage first innings points against Northern Districts in Whangarei but they retain their 14-point over the rest of the field.
Northern Districts resumed today at 63 for three, still trailing by 92 runs at Cobham Oval, and were eventually bowled out in their second innings for 275, leaving the visitors a victory target of 121 runs in 14 overs.
The chase was never on after the two key players, Peter Ingram and Kieran Noema-Barnett, were both run out inside three overs, and Central Districts were 28 for three when the teams agreed to pull the pin after six overs.
BJ Watling and Brook Hatwell thwarted the visitors for much of the day, adding 147 runs for the fourth wicket. Watling fell one run short of a century when he smacked a leg stump full toss from legspinner Tarun Nethula straight to backward square leg, while Hatwell made 71.