Okay, I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out how domestic standard cricketers could possibly "bat negatively".

The Canterbury Kings made the allegation after their four-day, first-class Plunket Shield match against the Auckland Aces was abandoned after three overs on day three on Monday.

Umpires Ash Mehrotra and John Dempsey deemed the wicket at Mainpower Oval, in Rangiora, on the outskirts of Christchurch, unfit to play on and called off the game on the grounds of player safety.

The turning point, it seems, was when Kings speed merchant Will Williams caught Aces batsman Matt McEwan on the noggin as the ball climbed up suddenly from a fullish delivery.


McEwan followed his skipper, Craig Cachopa, batting at the other end, off the pitch but the white coats called them back. The former batsman was dismissed for 12 and the game abandoned two balls later as Auckland were left reeling at 66-6 from 49 overs in their first dig, trying to chase down the hosts' 485-6 declared.

Here's the intriguing part. Having won the toss, Canterbury batsman Ken McLure carved up 210 runs, wicketkeeper Cameron Fletcher made his debut first-class century (100 not out) and Cole McConchie scored 99 runs.

With arguably the country's fastest bowler, Lockie Ferguson, digging it short to tickle a few Cantabrians' ribs, the visitors had aired their concerns about the temperamental behaviour of the strip from on day one.

I'm guessing that teams pointing a finger at rivals for "negative batting" often imply batsmen are digging their toes in to block or watch the ball whistle past the off stump or helmet in seeing out overs for a stalemate.

Canterbury assistant coach Brendon Donkers was reportedly convinced the Aces were up to no good.

"I think their mindset was perhaps somewhat negative [on Sunday] and they were just waiting for the game to be abandoned," Donkers said. "They tried to make a point they weren't happy with the wicket. They reflected that through the way they batted."

I can't imagine McEwan, or any other batsman for that matter, ducking deliberately into deliveries to prove a point at the risk of concussion.

The Kings are jesters in the first-class court, dead last on 44 points, four below perennial strugglers Otago Volts, so their disappointment is understandable.

That Donkers felt the likes of Ferguson tried to terrorise Canterbury batsmen with a diet of short-pitched deliveries perhaps goes a fair way in explaining the lack of sympathy for the Aucklanders in their first dig.

But all that detracts from a key factor — what's up with the wicket (not a drop-in one)?

No doubt the views of the umpires and match referee Gary Baxter will provide the platform for NZ Cricket's impending inquiry into the oval wicket.

However, you have to go back to the architects' drawing board to see where it all went wrong and if the experiment to produce the "classic" wicket went awry.

The Utopian state on the prime estate goes something like this — it should offer seamers and batsmen equal traction to display their prowess before offering purchase to spinners on the third and final days.

Ironically, farther north, at the bottom of North Island, Central Districts Stags quickie Adam Milne sent century maker Luke Woodcock for a concussion test on Monday in their top-of-the-table clash against Wellington Firebirds.

The Basin Reserve wicket had yielded 1071 runs in two-and-a-bit innings in three days but there was no bitching and belly aching from CD coach Heinrich Malan after the hosts piled on 530 runs in their first innings.

He heaped plaudits on the hosts for recovering from 99-5 on what Dane Cleaver described as a "docile" batting strip.

The Basin Reserve wicket needs an inquiry too, albeit to ascertain whether the highway construction company mistakenly strayed off its course in repairing roads in the capital city to tinker with the wicket.

That takes domestic cricket back to round six at McLean Park, Napier, early this month.

It puts into perspective what a superb job head groundsman Phil Stoyanoff and his staff did.

"There was still some nice carry and bounce on day four but, in saying that, there was also some good turn for the spin bowlers," Malan had said in lauding Stoyanoff.

Of course, the groundsmen's art has been redefined now with NZ Cricket's policy of preparing drop-in pitches around the country for "uniformity" in wickets for international matches at the expense of venues within a country offering different qualities for teams to adjust to.

If the manufactured block employed in the match against England at the Cake Tin in Wellington last month was anything to go by, it seems the bedding-in process is going to be challenging for the curators.

If Stoyanoff could produce what he did at McLean Park for CD is there really a need for drop-in wickets at all?

A more logical answer would be to use a curator, who India cricket used to jet across, to mastermind the development of key blocks around the country.