Unreal Grass Wicket Wanganui made Taranaki follow on today while still 235 runs behind at Victoria Park.
No, the above statement is not an error, with the order of the team names mixed up.
It had been Wanganui's finest Furlong Cup performance against one of the 'big three' associations in many seasons, even eclipsing the surprise first innings wins over Manawatu in 2017 and Taranaki themselves narrowly last January.
Having raised a demoralising 399-3 declared yesterday, all the Wanganui bowlers took Taranaki apart for 164 in less than three sessions, and after enforcing the follow-on with 46 overs remaining, hostilities ceased around 4pm with the visitors on 33-0 after 14 of them.
The big first innings win was achieved by Central Stags professional Ben Smith shattering the record books after Wanganui captain Dominic Lock won the toss and took the only option of batting in warm conditions.
Coming in at 50-2 after a reasonable start despite losing out-of-form opener Kashish Nauhria for a duck and fellow key batsman Greg Smith for 19, both off good catches, Ben Smith put on a batting clinic over the next five-and-a-half hours for an unbeaten 240 off 239 balls.
One-by-one, the greatest innings by Wanganui batsmen emblazoned on the Victoria Park pavilion honours board were being surpassed, as Ben Smith raised his 50 before lunch and then went on to score 99 more runs in the next session – part of another local batting record with allrounder Akash Gill (100 not out off 196) for a previously unthinkable partnership of 338 by the left-right hand combination.
From 167 not out at tea, Smith soon had only the Wanganui record ahead of him of 201 not out, made by Colin Atkinson against Horowhenua-Kapiti in the 1978-79 season.
Early on, while batting with Sam Sheriff (33), Smith had taken a quick liking to the spin of Mattie Thomas, who soon came out of the attack, and after surviving the first of a handful of dropped catches in his innings – all of them difficult chances – the Wanganui batsman began to dictate terms to his tiring opposition, who gave eight men a trundle with no success.
Gill was initially the aggressor after lunch, picking the ball off his legs and sending it to the boundary, courtesy of a very fast outfield.
But while Taranaki couldn't get him out, Gill's timing into the gaps began to desert him somewhat, making it a slower climb from his well-compiled 50 to reaching triple figures, which actually led to a scoreline blowout better than Lock had wished.
Wanting to get in a solid number of overs at the Taranaki top order before the close of play, the skipper's intention was give the pair just enough time for Smith to break the Wanganui record and Gill to reach his century, which would mean a comfortable declaration around 350.
But while Gill kept playing straight to fielders, Smith had gone ballistic.
The likes of Davis Mills, Liam Muggeridge, Michael Blanks and Ethan Keller would usually have one bad ball per over, like a low full toss, and Smith would summarily dispatch them either to or over the boundary – ultimately hitting nine sixes and 32 boundaries in his innings.
His first century came off 114 balls and the 150 was raised from 175, and the pace would only quicken from there.
There was some luck after being both dropped and then caught right on the boundary rope, with the fielders unable to avoid stepping over while attempting the high chances, but neither opportunity saw Smith shift back a gear.
One skied chance also fell just in front of the fingers of a diving fielder, and then a quality cut shot to the boundary saw the magic double ton achieved.
Strike bowler and Stags regular Ryan Watson, who has taken 6-for bags at Victoria before, was not amused by the disdain and began dropping the ball in short to both Gill and Smith, hitting the latter on the side of his helmet.
But Smith just kept coming - taking 18 runs off one Keller over which included consecutive periscope shots - Twenty20 style – over his head for boundaries.
Having flown past 350 but with Gill still making slow progress to his century, it appeared Wanganui would hit the 400 run mark, but a couple of trips out to the middle by bowling 12th man Fraser Kinnerley saw instructions relayed that it was time to wrap up.
Smith began to work the singles for his partner, with Taranaki keen to get off the field as well, and finally a friendly Mills over saw Smith and Gill calmly stroke a run-per-ball for Gill to raise the bat for his second Furlong Cup century this campaign, after a partnership that local cricket fans will not soon forget.
"Pitch was pretty placid, out field fast, batsmen's paradise," said Smith, who was given a well-earned break from fielding.
"Pretty excited, it's a real honour actually. [Thinking of] the people that have played before me," he said regarding the records.
"And I'm happy for Akash."
Set to face 16 overs before the end of the play, having fielded all day, Taranaki were in the cart at 31-3, as rested player-coach Vikum Sanjaya (3-36) produced his best spell since coming to Whanganui.
Dangerman Dean Robinson was gone to a Lock catch in the fourth over, and partner Joshua Borrell was caught by Kinnerley in Vikum's next over for 17-2.
Will Young (71 from 142) was looking to get Taranaki out of the day, but lost partner Muggeridge off the bowling of Ross Kinnerley (2-26) in sight of the end of play.
Taranaki began a recovery this morning at 91-3 as Shaun Sullivan (16) and then Philip Barraclough (20) dug in to survive and support Young, collectively facing 180 balls.
But Sullivan departed to a regulation catch by Sanjaya off Fraser Kinnerley (2-15), and then in the decisive moment when Taranaki knew they were sunk, Young fell to a low catch by Sheriff, his second, off Ross Kinnerley right before the lunch break.
Wanganui opted to switch to the spinners after the resumption, and in just three balls, Smith had got Mills to give up another catch for Fraser Kinnerley at 131-6.
Sanjaya tried a short ball to Barraclough, who just feathered an edge to wicket keeper Matt Simes to end his gutsy innings, while a defiant Watson came in and smashed Chris Sharrock over the top to the boundary, before only two balls later giving an edge to Hamish Harding at slip.
Thomas had survived 42 deliveries before Gill took his middle stump right out of the ground, and after playing a couple of nice shots, Blanks was finally trapped in front by Fraser Kinnerley to end an excellent team bowling effort with all six of them getting a scalp.
Lock immediately put Taranaki bat in, and on a very hot afternoon with 14 overs negotiated by Borrell and Robinson (21 not out), both sides were happy to call it a day.
A delighted Lock was asked if this was the most complete performance he had seen from Wanganui.
"I think so, not many times I've batted No 6 and not had to bat all day.
"We stuck to our plan with our bowling, and it all came off.
"Putting them in, we know what it's like after 90 overs [fielding], but it went better than we hoped.
"Today, we just carried on and it all went well. Not many times we had to defend 400."
Lock laughed about how the next time one of the old-timers wanted to tell them a story about a great victory in the bygone eras, he and his team can point to Smith's innings and the Gill partnership for a better one.
"I think that record might stand for a little while."
Wanganui's final Furlong Cup game will be against Horowhenua-Kapiti on February 1.
Wanganui 1st Innings
S Sheriff ct R Watson b S Smith 33
K Nauhria ct P Barraclough b R Watson 0
G Smith ct W Young b S Smith 19
B Smith Not Out 240
A Gill Not Out 100
Total: 399-3 declared (93 overs).
Bowling: R Watson 16 overs 2 maidens 62 runs 1 wicket; E Keller 13-2-77-0; M Blanks 23-7-85-0; S Smith 14-2-44-2; M Thomas 12-0-62-0; D Mills 8-2-34-0; L Muggeridge 4-0-21-0; S Sullivan 3-0-11-0.
Taranaki 1st Innings
J Borrell ct F Kinnerley b V Sanjaya 11
D Robinson ct D Lock b V Sanjaya 5
W Young ct S Sheriff b R Kinnerley 71
L Muggeridge ct M Simes b R Kinnerley 4
S Sullivan ct V Sanjaya b F Kinnerley 16
P Barraclough ct M Simes b V Sanjaya 20
D Mills ct F Kinnerley b B Smith 8
M Thomas b A Gill 4
R Watson ct H Harding b C Shamrock 4
M Blanks lbw b F Kinnerley 11
S Smith Not Out 3
Total: 164 (78.3 overs).
R Kinnerley 18-9-26-2; V Sanjaya 13-2-36-3; A Gill 14-6-29-1; F Kinnerley 11-5-15-2; C Shamrock 13-1-37-1; B Smith 10-3-18-1.
Taranaki 2nd Innings (follow on)
J Borrell Not Out 11
D Robinson Not Out 21
Total: 33-0 (14 overs).
R Kinnerley 3-2-7-0; V Sanjaya 4-2-6-0; F Kinnerley 4-1-14-0; A Gill 3-1-5-0.
Result: Draw, Wanganui win on first innings.