Seth Rance was always going to be a thorn in the Auckland Aces' side but the big question was, how sharp Adam Milne was going to look for Central Districts today?
Well, speed merchant Milne showed he hasn't lost his killer instincts after joining the Stags' do to skittle the hosts for 184 in their first dig in just 65.5 overs on day two of the four-day Plunket Shield match at the Eden Park outer oval.
"It was a very good team bowling performance and I managed to chip in, so it was good to get them out for what was a below-par [total] on that pitch, I thought," said the 26-year-old who is in the New Zealand Twenty20 international squad.
The Greg Hay-captained Stags, on the front foot with a lead of 230 runs, will resume batting in their second innings at 10.30am tomorrow with first-innings century maker Dane Cleaver and nightwatchman Milne unbeaten on nine runs and yet to score, respectively, with seven wickets intact.
Earlier, Milne came in at first change in the bowling attack to claim 3-30 from 11 overs, including four maidens, after a wicket-less Doug Bracewell tightened the screws and fellow opener Rance sent the top two Auckland batsmen back to the changing rooms for parking meter money.
Black Caps swing merchant Rance got Aces skipper Martin Guptill-Bunce for 11 and the prized scalp of New Zealand test opener Jeet Raval for eight runs. Milne then took Sean Solia for 11 at first drop.
Rance, who picked up a five-wicket bag in the win over Canterbury Kings, finished with 3-41 from 12.5 overs, including four maidens.
But frugality was a collective desire as Ryan McCone, Willem Ludick, Christian Leopard and Felix Murray all claimed a wicket each.
"Dougie did a good job bowling into a bit of a breeze and McCone followed him as well into the wind to dry up the runs to take a couple of wickets so we were able to attack. It was a good team effort," said Milne.
The day had started with a little rain, as forecast, but CD could only add one run to the overnight total of 359-9 after No11 Murray faced four more balls for a duck, finding the new-ball pace of Aces opening seamer Matt McEwan too much to contend with.
No 8 Milne was unbeaten on 29 runs from 33 balls to show he's no slouch with the willow, either.
The Manawatu seamer has grappled with his share of injury demons over the years, since making his domestic debut in 2010 before wowing cricket lovers with his sizzling 150km/h pace as Black Cap not long after.
CD and New Zealand have managed his workload with former international Jacob Oram also working with him in Palmerston North over the years.
Oram only early this year attested to the right-armer's extremely good work ethic and attitude.
"Yeah, I'm feeling pretty good so touch wood I'll keep going," Milne said today.
Only No 4 Robbie O'Donnell, who scored 36 runs before McCone rattled his furniture, and wicketkeeper Ben Horne, 25 runs at No 7, offered any resistance in the middle order although No 11 Danru Ferns was unbeaten on 25 and Will Somerville had matched him with as many at No 9.
Cleaver took four catches behind the stumps and has a chance to seal the Aucklanders' fate.
"He's having a good game and today he took a few catches so, hopefully, he can work the ball around and get a few more runs," Milne said of the Manawatu gloveman.
Milne felt a 450-run target would be ideal platform for the bowling attack to take an aggressive approach but it was imperative to return tomorrow to incrementally manage every hour of play in trying to emulate the maximum 16 points they had eked out against the Cantabrians last week.
"It'll be good to put the runs on the board and have a good total to bowl at."
He said no time was lost to rain with two sunny days ahead.
Hay seemed to have picked up the captain's armband curse as he departed for one run in the second innings after a promising 33 in the first dig and a duck against the Kings.
Fellow opening batsman Ben Smith looked like settling in with a patient 28 from 73 deliveries but Somerville had his number with Finn Allen snaffling the ball before Raja Sandhu trapped Bradley Schmulian lbw for 16 runs from 44 balls.
At the Basin Reserve, the Otago Volts trail by 395 runs with five wickets in hand after the Wellington Firebirds posted a daunting 509-5 declared on the platform of No 4 Devon Conway's unbeaten 203 and No 6 Malcolm Nofal's 110 runs.
Canterbury also require 295 runs with eight wickets in hand after the Northern Districts Knights were skittled for 378 runs in 114.3 overs.
Middle-order slogger Colin de Grandhomme laid the foundation of 115 runs after Dean Brownlie's 77 at first drop and No 4 Daryl Mitchell's 48 before No 8 Ish Sodhi joined the party with 50 runs.