Cricket: Plunket Shield victor to be decided on final day

By Niall Anderson

Auckland celebrate a key wicket against CD. Photo / Photosport
Auckland celebrate a key wicket against CD. Photo / Photosport

The Plunket Shield season is going down to the final day to find a victor.

Canterbury and Auckland remain in the race after a tense penultimate day where wickets tumbled.

Canterbury hold the advantage for now, sitting on 105 points, seven ahead of Auckland, with 12 points on offer for an outright win.

However, Canterbury's chances of an outright victory are slim, holding a lead of just 59 runs with four wickets in hand against Wellington, meaning they will likely be relying on Auckland failing to topple Central Districts.

That's where things get interesting, with Auckland leading by 209 runs, with six wickets remaining. They will need to declare early tomorrow, and then bowl CD out to take home a dramatic title triumph, assuming Canterbury don't pull out a miracle result.

Canterbury missed a chance to stamp their mark on the final round, falling behind after a 184-run partnership between Tom Blundell and Peter Younghusband rescued Wellington from a hole at 74-5.

Blundell made his fourth first-class century with his 113, bringing up 2000 first-class runs in the process. Younghusband also reached a milestone, with a stubborn 97 being his highest first-class score.

Once they finally broke that partnership, Canterbury gave themselves a chance of outright victory by ripping through the tail. Wellington collapsed from 258-5 to 264 all out, a first-innings lead of only 67.

That lead was more significant when Canterbury's top order failed for the second time in the match, slumping to 55-5, and leaving the one-day champions with a massive hurdle to overcome for an outright win.

Auckland are the team who can clear that hurdle, after they bowled Central Districts out for 181. Tarun Nethula took 4-49 and Colin Munro took 3-22 as they ground down a patient CD side to snare a 19 run first innings lead, and more importantly grabbed four bonus points.

They then needed quick runs to build a declarable lead, and a run-a-ball 52 from Michael Guptill-Bunce was followed by a typically rapid 30-ball 56 from Munro as they steered into a position to declare early tomorrow and go all out in search of 10 wickets for the Plunket Shield title.

Northern Districts were the only other team with a sniff of the title, but were ruled out of contention after they could only pick up four first innings bonus points.

They trailed Otago by 157 runs on the first innings after being bowled out for 275, but a career-best spell from Ish Sodhi gave ND a shot at a consolation victory.

Sodhi took 7-59, finishing with an 11 wicket bag as he tore through the Otago top order. He finished the domestic first-class season with 40 wickets at an average of 25.92.

Otago declared their second innings at 189-8, setting ND 347 to win, and they were at 15-0 in their chase when stumps were pulled.

- NZ Herald

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