After scoring the first century of the domestic cricket season, Wellington skipper Matthew Bell says an international recall is in the back of his mind, but he needs to sustain scores which would make it hard for the selectors to ignore him.
Opener Bell scored 146 in his side's first innings against Canterbury in a State Championship four-day match at the Basin Reserve in the capital.
With James Franklin (69) and Luke Woodcock (58 not out) making half-centuries, Bell had the luxury of declaring his side's innings at 428 runs for eight wickets, giving his bowlers an hour to attack Canterbury.
At stumps on the second day of the weather-affected match, Canterbury were 383 runs behind at 45 for two, having lost openers Todd Astle for one and Michael Papps, whose runs all came from boundaries, for 16.
Andrew Ellis, seven, and Shanan Stewart, 21, were the not-out batsmen.
Bell resumed yesterday morning on 88 and quickly went to three figures, posting his 18th first-class century for Wellington, in his 79th match for the province.
It is the most centuries scored by any player for one province in New Zealand, surpassing the 17 by Bert Sutcliffe for Otago in the 1940s to 1960s.
Bell, who scored his maiden first-class century at the age of 17 in his debut season with Northern Districts in 1994, said it had taken some time to get over not making the touring squad to England this year and then missing out on a New Zealand contract.
Recalled after a six-year absence for last summer's home series against Bangladesh, Bell started promisingly with a century in his comeback innings in Dunedin but his form then dropped off dramatically.
He recorded three ducks in four innings against the touring England side and needed a half-century in his last knock in the third test to lift his series average to 19.50.
"It took a couple of months but I have got over it," Bell said.
By maintaining his form and putting runs on the board, he could "make it pretty hard" for the national selectors to ignore him as they wanted some prolific run-makers at the top of the order.
"I'll cross that bridge if we get to it in terms of national selection, but at the moment I'm enjoying leading Wellington," he told Radio Sport.
Franklin and Bell crafted 123 runs for the fourth wicket before Franklin fell for 69, caught by Iain Robertson off a Michael Davidson delivery.
Leighton Burtt (2-87), Davidson (2-68) and Hamish Bennett (2-57) were the pick of the Canterbury bowlers with Burtt finally ending Bell's 356-minute stay at the crease after facing 252 balls after inducing the opener to loft a catch to Roberston.
Franklin capped off a successful day by claiming the wicket of Papps, and Andrew Lamb trapped Todd Astle leg before wicket off the 13th ball he faced.
OTAGO v ND
An assured innings from former test batsman Craig Cumming shored up a shaky start from Otago in Dunedin.
Chasing Northern's first-innings 275, Otago finished the rain-interrupted second day on 116 runs for two wickets, with Cumming's solid 69 not out providing the backbone of the innings.
The former Black Cap, who struck nine boundaries, took 148 balls for his total with his 50 coming up in 150 minutes off 100 balls.
Otago didn't make the best of starts to their chase, losing their first wicket with just three runs on the board.
Hamish Rutherford, 18, son of former New Zealand captain Ken Rutherford, lasted just one ball before he was dispatched by rookie pace bowler Trent Boult without scoring.
Cumming and Greg Todd put on 69 for the second wicket, before Todd was forced onto the back foot by a fullish ball from Boult, his defensive prod dragging the ball on to the stumps.
Neil Broom's dour four came of 71 balls, but helped leave Otago in a useful position with two days to play.
CD v AUCKLAND
A five-wicket bag by Central Districts bowler Ewen Thompson has hurt Auckland's bid for a second straight win.
At stumps on the second day of their match in Napier yesterday, Central were 133 runs for the loss of two wickets in their second innings to hold a lead of 139 over Auckland.
Resuming on their first-innings overnight score of 191-6, Central Districts were all out for 213 with Auckland's Pakistani bowler Azhar Abbas (3-52) and Colin de Grandhomme (3-12) cleaning the tail up.
Auckland were in strife early in their innings.
They had six runs on the board when they lost their first wicket in the third over and were reeling at 42-6 by the 17th over after Thompson removed Richard Jones (5), Tim McIntosh (1), Scott Styris (0), Reece Young (4) and de Grandhomme (11). It is Thompson's third five-wicket bag in first-class matches.
Steven Croft and Tarun Nethula steadied the ship with a partnership of 79 for the seventh wicket before Croft fell for 59 to Brent Hefford.
Mitchell McClenaghan and Hefford snared the remaining wickets to ensure Central picked up first-innings points.
Auckland removed Peter Ingram for one run but Brad Patton and George Worker shared a partnership of 72 before Worker departed for 27.
Patton (61) and Tim Weston (33) were not out at stumps.
* 18 - Matthew Bell (Wellington) 79 matches, 1997-.
* 17 - Bert Sutcliffe (Otago) 60, 1946-1962.
* 15 - Bruce Edgar (Wellington) 87, 1975-1990.
* 14 - Ken Rutherford (Otago) 68, 1982-1995.
- Mark Greatbatch (CD) 61, 1986-2000.
- Mathew Sinclair (CD) 72, 1995.