Canterbury are in a strong position to extend their lead atop the Plunket Shield ladder with just three rounds remaining.

Having taken three outright wins this season, the one-day champions hold an 11-point lead - a buffer they can extend after reducing Otago to 124-8 on the opening day of their eighth round clash.

Andy Ellis took 4-31 for Canterbury against a painstakingly slow Otago effort, whose innings has been anchored by an unbeaten 56 from 194 balls by opener Brad Wilson.

Ellis took three wickets with the short ball as Canterbury ripped through the Otago top order after a rain-delayed start. Otago's deficiencies when trying to aggressively play the short ball curiously coincided with their slow run rate, going at just 1.89 runs per over.

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Canterbury's closest contenders for the Plunket Shield title are Northern Districts and Wellington, both of whom had mixed starts to their fixtures.

Northern Districts had a decent day with the ball against Auckland, who ended the day at 322-9.

Missing the dominant Colin Munro after his one-game suspension for inappropriate language, Robbie O'Donnell top scored for Auckland with 75. At 159-5, they looked in a spot of trouble, but middle-order contributions from Mark Chapman (48) and Tarun Nethula (52) stabilised the Aces' innings. International contenders Ish Sodhi (2-87) and Scott Kuggeleijn (4-75) bowled effectively for ND, as did all-rounder Daryl Mitchell, who claimed 3-40.

Wellington also had another international contender boost their hopes, with Luke Ronchi rescuing the men from the capital.

Reduced to 62-5 after a superb spell from Seth Rance (4-61), Ronchi made 70 in a 104-run stand with Peter Younghusband as the Wellington tail wagged to reach 245 all out.

Central Districts' powerful batting lineup was at 5-0 at stumps.