THE wicket is not going any where, Wellington Firebirds opening batsman Luke Woodcock has and is undergoing a concussion test, and Central Districts have got the other century maker, Malcolm Nofal, out for a duck.

All in all, batsmen from both sides have amassed 1071 runs in three days of play in the four-day Plunket Shield match at the Basin Reserve in the capital.

So why doesn't it feel like a top-of-the-table clash in domestic men's red-ball cricket?

Will the game peter out into a stalemate when the white shirts lift the bails today?


The Heinrich Malan-coached Stags have done many unthinkable things to eke out results this summer but this one may be a bridge too far as they try to chase down an 11-point deficit on the shield table, after rain robbed them of an outright victory away against the Auckland Aces in the previous round.

In resuming from their overnight total of 226-3, captain William Young and his troops did admirably in mustering 423 runs in 124.2 overs before leaving the hosts at 118-6 in their second dig at stumps to make a game of it.

"We're happy with the way we batted but it's just disappointing that one of us four didn't go on to post a hundred because that would have set a platform for a big total," said wicketkeeper Dane Cleaver after returning to the fold for the first time since hobbling off in the one-day Ford Trophy final last month.

Young (75 runs), Jesse Ryder (69), Tom Bruce (89) and Cleaver (72) are the four in question, as CD tried to eclipse Wellington's mammoth first-innings total of 530.

Newbies Willem Luddick, at No 7, and Felix Murray, who was 27 not out at No 11, fit into the team well with the bat and ball, Cleaver said.

With the Firebirds leading by 225 runs, he said CD would resume with some intensity with a ball that was only 40 overs or so old, in trying to give themselves as much time as possible to chase down the runs in the hope of securing a win on a benign wicket.

"It's pretty flat. I think docile would be a good word [to describe it] because it's not offering a whole lot," he said, singling out veteran Wellington spinner Jeetan Patel for bowling well for his five-wicket bag.

"But it's nothing out of the ordinary. It's pretty even paced and offers no sideways movement.

The summer's top white-ball seamer, Blair Tickner, was the pick of the CD bowlers yesterday, claiming 44-4 from nine overs, including a maiden over.

New-ball merchant Adam Milne, who got Nofal for a duck, took 1-33 from nine overs, including two maidens while Ludick took one for a tally of five in the game on debut.

"Ticks and Milney bowled exceptionally well," he said.

While Woodcock would have the chance to return to the batting crease on five runs, there's some doubts after Milne caught him flush on his helmet with a bouncer.

"He had to go for a concussion test. It was quite a hefty blow so he was a little bit shaken and had to come off to get it looked at."

Cleaver said if Woodcock returned that would be a big wicket for CD.

So what's up with the Stags wicketkeeper's back after Ben Smith took the gloves off him again in the last three overs yesterday?

"It's really frustrating. I've had some back spasms and they came out of the blue, really," said the 26-year-old Manawatu cricketer who has taken five catches in this game.

Cleaver was hoping he was over it but the spasms returned following his three-hour batting session.

"Having got over 120 overs already [in keeping wickets] it'll be good to get back out there and get through some overs in the morning without any issues," he said, suspecting crouching might be the cause although it demobilised him when he was batting in the one-dayers, trying to cut the chalk after a run.

"I got it when I was batting in that Ford Trophy final and that was just out of the blue, really."

No doubt, it's been frustrating for him to watch although he enjoyed the boys' success.

"It's good to be back and I have a couple of big games to go so I'm hopeful I'll be able to play those as well."

Cleaver saluted Smith for doing a great job with the gloves, suspecting he had kept wickets as a youngster.

"We're very lucky to have him filling in there. He's a natural and he's a pretty good catcher," he said of the opening batsman.