The plan was quite simple for the Central Districts Stags today — skittle the Otago Volts for 150 odd and then chase 250 down in Napier.
Captain William Young and his troops did just that, give and take a few runs, when they rolled the Volts for 162 in their second dig, by mid-afternoon, before settling in to chase down a target of 264 runs at McLean Park.
At stumps, the Heinrich Malan-coached hosts had eaten quite considerably into the target and today will only require 133 runs from 576 balls with eight wickets in hand to claim outright victory on the final day of the four-day Plunket Shield match.
It should be a dawdle but then the purists will tell you funnier things have happened in red-ball cricket.
When play resumes at 11am, CD opener Greg Hay (79 from 157 balls) and Young (18/98) will attempt to build on their measured 63-run partnership from 176 deliveries.
Needless to say CD are in good hands in the second innings with the pair embracing the three Ps paramount in first-class cricket — prowess, patience and partnership.
That is not to say opener Ben Smith (15/48) and Bradley Schmulian (17/40), at first drop, didn't but they will chastise themselves for not going on to forge meaningful partnerships after seeing off Otago danger man Neil Wagner.
Just as CD seamer Seth Rance and fellow Black Caps seamer Wagner had claimed five wickets on day one and two, spinner Ajaz Patel joined that club with 5-44 from 21.1 overs, including five maidens.
It was Patel's 12th first-class five-wicket haul as he cleaned up the tail after Rance, Adam Milne and Doug Bracewell softened up the batsmen.
Just as the wicket had proven stubborn in the previous two digs, the Southerners struggled to eke out even half a ton in their second innings. Only Shawn Hicks managed 42 runs from 129 balls at first drop before Milne ran him out.
No one else got past the 25-run mark on a sorry scoreboard at a venue where head groundsman Phil Stoyanoff and his merry men must take credit for preparing a wicket that had progressively got better for batting each day.
No longer will centuries be devalued on a strip where, one can argue, there's an even battle between bat and ball.
If Hay goes on to post his 10th first-class ton in 63 matches he can proudly wear the badge of a red-ball grafter on a pitch that demanded respect for good balls and careful shot selection.
The 33-year-old from Nelson will atone his first dig of 26 runs, not to mention he is starving for cricket because he is not considered a white-ball contender. In many respects that is why he prospers in the red-ball format.
Again, though, the CD batsmen owe the bowlers a pint or two at the local after they provided the platform following a mediocre knock in their first innings.
"I think we bowl quite well collectively and we've realised that it was one of those situations where we had to restrict them as much as possible to put a big squeeze on them," said Patel, lauding the frontline seamers, in particular, Milne for a great spell from the seaside end that got him 2-46 from 19 overs, including six maidens.
Rance and Bracewell took a scalp each from the opposite ends but what stood out was the Stags' bowling economy rate that was collectively even more frugal, at no more than 2.65, compared to 3.47 on day one.
"That made it easier for me to come in and just work my way into it and work on my rhythm to get us back into the game," said Patel.
For the 31-year-old, who was the highest wicket taker in the longer format for the past two summers, the five-wicket bag was an endorsement of his consistency.
"It's about making the most of every opportunity that I get. I know that if I pick up a couple of wickets off the top then I have a chance to collect five wickets," he said, claiming three before lunch.
He said Milne was unlucky not to take a tailender after a nick went down which gave the spinner his fifth.
While he didn't start the season in the format to become No 1 wicket taker he did set a personal goal to muster 40 scalps.
"It's helped that I've had a good start to the season but it's just a matter of taking one game at a time and putting in what you can and doing what the team requires.
"It's not necessarily going to be your day and you aren't always going to pick a wicket but it's just a matter of making the most of those opportunities."
Patel gave a thumbs up to the wicket which hardened in the morning for the new ball but as the day wore on it became more conducive to batting on.
"It hasn't turned as much as we'd expected from the past here but there are some good foot marks because it's soft so you can use them to get a little bit out of it [for spinners]."
While the total they chase today would be a small one, he felt it was imperative to retain wickets as it tended to do a little more in the morning sessions.
"It's important that we get out there to assert ourselves and put ourselves in a good position for [this] morning."
However, the batsmen will have to survive Wagner and the new ball as well as spinner Mark Craig who got Schmulian to add to his four wickets in the first dig.
"He's a class bowler [Wagner] and he's been very successful in this format over a long time so we have to treat him with the respect that he deserves but, at the same time, look to score runs because the best way to put a bowler off his rhythm and his plan is to be more assertive to score runs."
The slow left-arm orthodox bowler, who came in as night watchman to deny Wagner before falling to him the next morning for 12 runs after facing 32 balls, grinned when asked what it was like to face the test seamer.
"I can't say it's too much fun because he gets a lot of balls around your head so you're ducking and swaying quite a bit but I enjoy that challenge because it's something that I cherish."
He was disappointed in feathering one to wicketkeeper Derek de Boorder but he was adamant in ridding himself of some of the bad habits creeping into his batting.
"It's a good opportunity for me to kind of get out there and, hopefully, in time, convert that overnight stand into something good the next day."
Patel said the format demanded batsmen take the long approach and resist the temptation just to throw their bats at the ball.
"At the same time it isn't a huge total so if you're positive you can claw a little bit away to take the pressure off yourself."
He said Blair Tickner's injury wasn't anything too serious and predicted he would be back in his groove within a fortnight at the most.
"It's tough but as a side we tend to get on with it and not dwell too much on what's going on but rather find ways to make things happen.
"If you ask Heinrich, he'll tell you the thing about our side is that we go about trying find ways to win and different guys tend to step up at different times."
Patel didn't think he lost anything in the transition from red ball to a white one and back. If anything, it was good for his template.
"It's good for my development and to be able to utilise my variations a lot more in white ball.
"My No 1 aspiration is red ball and to try to push for higher honours in the format," said the spinner who convenor of selectors Gavin Larsen and Black Caps coach Mike Hesson had kept an eye on this summer.
The northeasterlies, making life difficult for the past three days, will mutate into a gentle breeze today, if the forecast is anything to go by.