If the lean first innings of Otago was anything to go by today it's fair to assume the Volts batsmen will need a few sessions with a sports psychologist before their first-class campaign ends this summer.

That crude diagnosis is based purely on human behaviour after just about every willow whacker who played a stock bat/pad defensive shot simply couldn't resist the temptation to turnaround to look back at the disturbed furniture on the wicket in Alexandra.

The root cause of the consternation -- silky Central Districts seamer Blair Tickner finding a prodigious in swingers on a benign batting strip on day three of the four-day Plunket Shield match at Molyneux Park.

Tickner took 4-26 from 20 overs, including seven maidens, as the Heinrich Malan-coached defending champions skittled the hosts for 162 runs in 81.3 overs in reply to the Stags' don't-argue 6-511declared.

Made to follow on, the Jacob Duffy-captained Volts were hanging on for dear life at 3-99 at stumps tonight after facing 49 overs in their second dig.

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However, it would be a gross injustice to ignore the input of fellow CD new-ball bowler Ryan McCone and shield debutant spinner Dean Foxcroft as they claimed 3-40 and 3-8, respectively, to leave the Otago batsmen in a mental swamp.

McCone, helping Tickner knock off the top order, and You Travel Taradale CC premier club allrounder Foxcroft, primarily mopping up the tail, went on to claim a scalp each in Otago's second innings.

But it was the tailor made bath-length balls of Tickner that had deceived Volts opening batsman Cam Hawkins into leaving a delivery that whipped his bails off for five runs.

Left-armer McCone had toyed with the mental fortitude of the other opening batsman, Brad Wilson, trapped lbw for two runs in the first innings and enticing him to feather a leg-side delivery in the second for a duck.

But debutant Hawkins showed some character and fight in the second dig with an unbeaten 36 and will resume batting with former CD representative Mitch Renwick on eight not out when play resumes tomorrow.

He had forged a promising third-wicket partnership with Shawn Hawkins before Foxcroft uprooted the middle stump through the latter's storm shutters for 40 runs.

Nevertheless, it was the consistency of Tickner that will worry not just Otago batsmen but other major association sides well into the Burger King Super Smash Twenty20 campaign starting after Christmas.

Tikokino cricket coach Colin Schaw says Blair Tickner has the will to learn and a desire to go as far as he can. Photo/file
Tikokino cricket coach Colin Schaw says Blair Tickner has the will to learn and a desire to go as far as he can. Photo/file

"He's looking sharp," said Colin Schaw of the Ruahine Motors Central Hawke's Bay CC premier club cricketer whose raised locked-elbows run up makes him stand out "like a raw horse ready for a race".

The 25-year-old, who has recently returned from the NZ A tour of duty here and abroad, tends to use his imposing frame to slam the ball hard on to the deck.

Schaw said the change in his strength and fitness since entering the CD environment was conspicuous. Napier-born Tickner returned to Hawke's Bay from Australia, playing initially under the tutelage of Schaw at CHB before the mentor went on to coach him through the Pay Excellence Hawke's Bay senior men's representative side.

"He's bulked up a lot and he's sort of hitting the deck hard," said the former Bay coach. "He's always going to be a menace with his height, isn't he?"

Schaw said Tickner was showing the incremental gains under Malan through to the NZ A campaign.

"Playing at a higher level and continuously training with a group of guys they are bringing through [to NZ A] to an environment that is higher than what you been in means everything is strengthened."

"He's also got the will to learn and he's got a lot of bloody good people around him in the CD set up and New Zealand A. He's got the desire to go as far as he can," he said after Bay senior men's rep son, Angus Schaw, had enticed him back home while playing in Queensland.

The manner in which Hawkins, Hicks, Josh Finnie and Viljoen Rippon were dismissed in the first innings had an eerie kangaroo-caught-in-the-headlight look about it.

Schaw said Tickner was a "raw-boned" bloke when he had arrived from Queensland almost three summers ago but there was no doubt he bowled a "hard ball".

"He had put a few guys on their arses in Hawke's Bay with his pace and bounce."

Touch wood, he said, the medium-fast merchant with a modest run up would remain free of injuries on the way to a Black Caps call up to realise his potential.

Schaw said the NZ A and NZ XI type of games were "awesome" for the budding talent.

Just as Malan had alluded to on Friday, CD skipper Greg Hay, after making a stellar double century with support from Kieran Noema-Barnett's century, wasn't shy to look outside the box to use nine bowlers, including tweakers Bradley Schmulian and Tom Bruce.

On a day when the Stags claimed 11 wickets, it was a clever ploy to ensure the frontline attack bowlers return rejuvenated tomorrow to claim an outright victory.

It's fair to say anything short of that will probably feel like a loss to the visitors.