A superb century in tough batting conditions has seen Wanganui's Ben Smith put his name right back in contention for a Stag's return.
The Central District's contracted player led from the front with 131 in Wanganui's opening Hawke Cup match with Wairarapa in Masterton yesterday.
It fell only to his team mates to hang with him for reasonable stints as the wicketkeeper went about grafting out his innings in 415 minutes and 264 balls.
Wanganui had confirmed a first innings win and were hunting for an overall result when they had the hosts reeling at 30-3 with around 30 overs left late yesterday afternoon.
Over Saturday, Wanganui had dismissed Wairarapa for 190, spreading the spoils among the bowling attack along with securing a couple of run-outs.
Upcoming New Zealand U19 representative Nick Blundell, taking 2-33 and leg spinner Dominic Lock, with 2-22, were the pick of the bunch.
Heading out, Wanganui's reliance on Smith to keep a cool head was evident as he anchored several partnerships down the length of the batting order.
He found the boundary rope 11 times in a patient innings.
The innings folded mid-afternoon with the score at 281 all out.
Tellingly, after Smith the next highest contributions came from senior player Dominic Rayner (26) and young Henry Collier (22), while only two other batsmen reached double figures.
Hunting an outright win from a 91-run advantage, Wanganui struck early and often, with Rayner, Blundell and Brent Turner all picking up scalps to give their side a definite chance to force a result.