Cricket: Auckland close in on title as Popli reaches milestone

By Niall Anderson

Bharat Popli. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times
Bharat Popli. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times

Auckland are closing in on the Plunket Shield title after a sublime batting display against Wellington today.

A career-best 189 from Michael Guptill-Bunce steered Auckland to 543-7 in their second innings of their top of the table clash, a lead of 459 runs.

Rolled for 152 in their first turn at bat, Auckland surpassed that without loss in their second dig, with Guptill-Bunce putting on 215 for the first wicket with Jeet Raval (90).

Guptill-Bunce peppered the boundary for five and a half hours and lasted 80 overs, smacking 27 fours and two sixes as part of the Auckland onslaught.

The leaders smoked 79 boundaries, while significant middle-order contributions from Hong Kong's Mark Chapman (73) and Donovan Grobbelaar (89 not out) left Wellington requiring a record-breaking final day to stay in title contention.

Auckland can wrap up the title with a round to spare if they win, but a draw may put Canterbury into the reckoning, who are in with a shot at beating Northern Districts.

ND sit at 203-4 in their second knock, leading by 130 runs after Peter Fulton, Todd Astle and Cameron Fletcher all made 58 for Canterbury to take the first-innings initiative.

Daniel Flynn (51) and Dean Brownlie (59) got Northern off to a flier in their second innings, but a rash of wickets will give Canterbury a hope of an outright result tomorrow to stay in the hunt.

Key for ND's resistance will be Bharat Popli, who brought up 1000 runs for the Plunket Shield season when he reached 32 in the second innings.

Popli joins rare company, with Martin Crowe (1348) Graeme Hick (1228) Jeff Crowe (1063) and Michael Papps (1005) the only others to have reached the elusive accomplishment.


If Canterbury and Wellington both fail in their quest for victory, Auckland will hoist the shield at the Basin Reserve tomorrow.

In the bottom of the table clash, Central Districts are 194-6 in their second innings against Otago, holding a lead of 254 runs.

- NZ Herald

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