Central Districts' opener Ben Smith produced the outstanding performance after the opening three days of the Plunket Shield, but the consistency of New Zealand test squad before their flight to Australia this week would have provided more satisfaction.

The 24-year-old Smith hit a career-best 244 against Otago as part of 650 for eight, the highest score in CD's history, overtaking the 594-8 declared against Auckland in 1995-96. George Worker's 129 was also his highest first-class score.

Smith batted for 518 minutes, faced 368 balls and hit 29 fours and one six in Napier as the Stags established a 298-run lead. The Volts were 52-2 at stumps.

Of the New Zealand players, CD's Ross Taylor made 48 and Doug Bracewell took five for 67 and 1-16 and Otago's Hamish Rutherford made 79 and two, Jimmy Neesham 131 and took 1-52 and Mark Craig took 2-164 from 39 overs.

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Northern Districts advanced to 429 against Wellington in Hamilton, dominated by a record 198-run fifth-wicket partnership against all-comers between Bharat Popli (91) and BJ Watling (89). The pair complemented the work of Daniel Flynn, who extended his Knights' century record to 17 and Kane Williamson (65).

Dane Hutchinson offered respite for the Firebirds, securing a hat-trick for his maiden first-class five-wicket bag. The visitors were 206-4 at the close, a lead of 44.

Of the other Black Caps, Mitchell Santner made 33 and has 0-46 across both innings, and new-ball partnership Tim Southee and Trent Boult have match figures of 6-99 from 29 overs and 2-107 off 28.2 overs respectively. Luke Ronchi made 115 in Wellington's first innings.

Auckland have the advantage over Canterbury at Eden Park outer oval, with the visitors reaching 264-5 in their second innings, a lead of 97. Leo Carter top scored with 79 while Andrew Ellis helped reduce Auckland to 316 with 3-54.

Of the other test players, Canterbury's Tom Latham made 18 and 21 and Matt Henry made 35 and took 2-76 from 26 overs.

New Zealand A dominated the opening day of their four-day match against Sri Lanka A yesterday, posting 336-5.

Jeet Raval (152) and Dean Brownlie (68) combined for an opening stand of 153 and Henry Nicholls continued his form, reaching 67 not out at stumps.

Elsewhere, New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum is expected to return home over the weekend after delivering testimony at the Chris Cairns perjury trial taking place in London.

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