Tim Southee was kept relatively quiet on his return to the bowling crease but, importantly for the Black Caps, completed 11 overs of work without any difficulties.

Having been kept on the sidelines by a foot injury since New Zealand met Sri Lanka on New Year's Eve, Southee yesterday took the first step on the road back to the international scene, taking 1-37 on the second day of Northern Districts' Plunket Shield clash with Central Districts.

The seamer, named in the test team to play Australia, took the new ball for the Knights at McLean Park, proving his fitness by picking up the wicket of Bevan Small on a strong day for the visitors.

By the time Southee struck, Scott Kuggeleijn (4-82) had ripped through the Stags' top order, reducing the home side to 95-6 after ND made 268 on the opening day.


Dane Cleaver (66no) and Seth Rance (52 from 39) both made half-centuries to help CD fight back, eventually being dismissed for 256 as Ish Sodhi (2-72) wrapped up the tail. The Knights then finished the day on 61-2 in their second turn with the bat, holding an overall lead of 73.

At Hagley Oval, Canterbury's encounter with Auckland was similarly poised at the end of the second day, with the home side leading by 22 runs with nine wickets in hand.

After Auckland resumed on 10-1 in pursuit of Canterbury's 294, Michael Guptill-Bunce laid a solid platform for his side, making 93 before being trapped in front by Todd Astle. But Australian Nathan McAndrew (65) was the only other batsman to surpass 20 as Ed Nuttall (5-72) picked up the second five-wicket bag of his career to help dismiss Auckland for 279.

There was still time for Donovan Grobbelaar to snag the key wicket of Tom Latham for two, giving Auckland hope of grabbing their third win from four rounds to remain top.

Wellington took a commanding position in search of their third victory, holding a 115-run lead over Otago after day two in Queenstown. After the visitors advanced their overnight score to 348, Brent Arnel took 5-59 as Otago fell to 240, with Hamish Rutherford (70) and Sam Wells (51) offering the only resistance. Wellington will resume this morning on 7-0.