IT'S JUST as well Ben Wheeler and his teammates were engaging in the ritual of hot/cold treatment in ice buckets in the bowels of the Harris Stand at McLean Park, Napier, last night.

That's because it seemed as if the Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags were in some kind of hurry to get the job done in just the second day of their four-day Plunket Shield match against the Northern Districts Knights.

The first-class match between the competition's bottom dwellers is set for a dramatic finish today, although the Stags were beginning to trip over themselves in a rush to eclipse a paltry target of 70 in their second dig.

After skittling the Knights for 139 in their second innings, CD padded up but ND opening bowler Scott Kuggeleijn reminded the hosts it was still game on with three scalps for 14 runs.


The Heinrich Malan-coached Stags, who are defending shield champions, are still desperately in the hunt for a victory in two formats, after finishing last in the HRV Cup Twenty20 campaign.

Wheeler, who took 4-21 in the second innings, said opener Ben Smith, 5 not out, and No 5 William Young, yet to score, would keep their heads down when play resumes this morning to ensure CD claim their first victory.

"We'll win by a day and be done by lunch ... hopefully," he said.

The opening bowler said it was frustrating for captain Kieran Noema-Barnett and his troops that they were training well but not claimed a victory yet.

"It's nothing new. We've been there before so we'll get on with it tomorrow," he said of the need to occupy the crease to get the monkey off their backs.

Wheeler felt the CD batsmen, in particular unwanted Black Caps allrounder Doug Bracewell, had done the job in the first innings to provide the platform for them to finish well today.

No 8 Bracewell was unbeaten on 77 and No 7 wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk scored 65 after another top-order collapse, although No 5 Greg Hay contributed 33 runs to CD's first innings of 265.

Talented batsman Carl Cachopa, at No 3, has scored eight and a duck, although he did protest briefly in the first dig when a white coat put his finger up for a nick to the wicketkeeper.

"He wasn't out," Wheeler said, lamenting how a couple of decisions in batting and bowling didn't go CD's way.

It's remarkable how a wicket at McLean Park offered little purchase in the second one-day international between the Black Caps and India but in the four-dayer head groundsman Phil Stoyanoff has provided enough lush growth for 33 wickets to tumble.

Wheeler felt the pitch was "slow on day one" but provided more traction on day two to those who persevered with good line and length.

"We also had plans and we stuck to them as the wicket got better and better."

The bowling was "top notch" and there was "accuracy".

The Stags bowlers didn't give the Knights batsmen "free" balls.

Wheeler was frugal (1.64 runs an over) in the second innings although "five of them [runs] were through Dougie to the boundary", he said with a laugh.

Bracewell took 3-47 at 5.22 runs an over.

"Dougie's definitely out to make a point," Wheeler said of the Taradale Cricket Club player, who media have written off because of a plethora of rival seamers available to Black Caps coach Mike Hesson and captain Brendon McCullum to pick from before New Zealand play India in two test matches.

"He's got class so he'll be back in the Black Caps squad again."

Noema-Barnett matched Wheeler's frugality with one wicket.

Seamer Bevan Small carried on from a tidy first-innings with 2-24 in the second innings.

Leg spinner Tarun Nethula's barren spell continued with a wicket-less innings.

ND wicketkeeper BJ Watling also had a lean patch before his impending call up to the test squad. The Black Cap had a duck before falling to Bracewell and 13 in the second innings before falling prey to Wheeler.

On a day dominated by ball, a couple of batsmen gave Auckland hope of earning a result against Wellington, according to an APNZ report.

With 43 wickets falling across three games in the Plunket Shield, Craig Cachopa and Colin de Grandhomme chipped away at Wellington's first innings total of 399 before falling late in the day.

Their dismissals saw ascendancy firmly with the hosts at the halfway point at the Basin Reserve, but Auckland at least have a chance of snatching their second win of the season.

While Wellington added only 62 to their overnight score as James Franklin ended unbeaten on 128, their eventual total had an imposing feel as Auckland began their turn with the bat.

That feeling was enhanced as Auckland fell to 125-4 shortly before tea, before Cachopa and de Grandhomme mounted an afternoon fightback. The pair put on 145 for the fifth wicket - twice as many as any other Auckland partnership - but let themselves down late in the day.

First Cachopa (79) was bowled by Luke Woodcock, then de Grandhomme (86) suffered a similar fate from the bowling of Mark Gillespie six overs later.

Their departures saw Auckland reach 280-7 at stumps, leaving the tail with some work if the Aces are to make up the 119-run gap.

Elsewhere, top-of-the-table Canterbury are in a strong position following two days of their visit to Dunedin to play Otago. After Matt Henry took five wickets to help dismiss the hosts for 200 in their first innings, Canterbury capitalised on their 80-run advantage.