A first-class game in New Zealand was abandoned today due to the condition of the pitch.

It is only the second occasion it has happened in the country's first-class cricket history.

Canterbury's match against Auckland was called off early on the third day today with the pitch at Rangiora's Mainpower Oval ruled unsafe for the batsmen.

At the time, Auckland were in trouble at 66 for six off 49 overs, replying to Canterbury's 485 for six declared.

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In Canterbury's innings, batsmen Ken McClure and Cam Fletcher made 210 and 100 not out respectively. But even during the Canterbury innings there were worrying signs about the behaviour of the pitch, according to match referee Gary Baxter.

The only other occasion a game was called off in similar circumstances was in the 1998-99 season when a Shell Conference game at Timaru between the Northern Conference and the touring Pakistan A side was abandoned after two of four days, the reason given being the dangerous nature of the pitch.

''First and foremost the priority is player safety, and that was a concerning issue,'' Baxter said.

''Right from the start the occasional ball would rear off a length which was unplayable. While Canterbury batted through the better part of the pitch conditions, one or two of their batsmen were struck.

''Auckland were struggling to get it off the block. The occasional one would come through head high, then would shoot through low. A couple of their players had been struck. This morning a ball reared badly and hit (Auckland batsman) Matt McEwan on the helmet.''

When he was out shortly after in unusual fashion it prompted umpires Ash Mehrotra and John Dempsey to act. They decided to call the game off before anyone was seriously injured.

The scorecard makes unusual reading, not dissimilar to the game in New South Wales in late 2015, when an Australian side declared at 503 for one, and New Zealand bailed out of batting, unhappy with the pitch at Blacktown Oval, and headed north to Brisbane for the first test of that series.

Baxter confirmed it was ''a no brainer'' for the umpires to make the call.

New Zealand Cricket are to launch an investigation into all the circumstances surrounding the abandonment. They were today working out the appropriate points dispersement from the game.

Auckland sit third on the table behind Wellington and Central Districts, who are playing their third day at the Basin Reserve today, while Canterbury are a distant last on 44.
There are two rounds remaining in the shield this season.