Cricket: CD closing in on Plunket Shield

Central Districts are one good day of cricket away from winning the Plunket Shield, with only Northern Districts' lower-order batsmen standing between them and victory.

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

Otago are on the verge of beating Wellington after three days of their match at the Basin Reserve, but that will all be in vain unless the ND tail mounts a rearguard action to deny CD in Nelson.

The Knights will take a 134-run lead into the final day at Saxton Oval but have only four wickets in hand. One of them, spinner Ish Sodhi, is no certainty to bat after suffering a quad strain which ruled him out of selection for the New Zealand XI match against England.

Regardless of whether Sodhi is available, CD will fancy their chances of cleaning up the tail tomorrow (Sat) morning before setting off on their chase for the shield. They will also be able to throw caution to the wind, knowing a draw or loss is irrelevant in the larger picture.

That scenario was set up today by the Stags' pace attack. After they were eventually dismissed for 418 - with a first innings lead of 151 runs - Ben Wheeler quickly struck to put his side on the front foot.

The 20-year-old dismissed Joseph Yovich for a duck in the sixth over, before returning to the crease to claim the scalps of Brad Wilson (28) and Daniel Flynn (37).

ND soon slumped to 109-4 and their prospects of forcing CD into a large chase appeared dire. Corey Anderson (89) and James Marshall (94no) put on 155 for the fifth wicket to provide the Knights - and Otago - some hope before Doug Bracewell chimed in with a brace of wickets to leave ND on 285-6 at stumps.

If they manage to frustrate the Stags tomorrow, ND can expect to receive a rather large thank you card from Otago cricket. The Volts have Wellington on the ropes and look set to land the knockout blow tomorrow before turning their attention to matters across the Cook Straight.

Wellington resumed their second innings this 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.

Otago will begin tomorrow needing one more wicket and, with Wellington leading by just 185 runs, it should be a straightforward chase.

Elsewhere, Canterbury made light work of Auckland on the third morning of their clash at Hagley Oval in Christchurch to consign the Aces to last place in the competition.

Two poor performances with the bat capped an unsuccessful season for Auckland in which they won only two of 10 games, while Canterbury's nine-wicket victory saw them rise to third.


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