They lost the toss and couldn't muster maximum points for outright victory but the Central Districts Stags are over the moon in frustrating the Wellington Firebirds into throwing in the towel for a stalemate in Nelson this afternoon.
"You play to win but sometimes things don't work out as planned and you do the best you can so all the boys just chipped in for a really good team performance for a draw," No 4 batsman Dane Cleaver, unbeaten on 75, said after Wellington shook hands with CD at 336/4 at tea in the second innings of the final day of the Plunket Shield match at Saxton Oval.
Cleaver said the winning toss on Friday was crucial because of the greenish tinge on offer on the prime real estate so the visitors had made life difficult for the defending champions.
"I think we did well to get 158 [in the first dig] and another day things may have gone our way and we would have added more so it was an important toss which makes it even more pleasing."
The wicketkeeper, who turns 27 on January 1, took a "yes-and-no" stance when asked if there was a tinge of disappointment in not having the opportunity to go on to add to his fourth-class century carved up against the Auckland Aces in round two in October.
"It's always nice to get a 100 but, at the same time, my goal was to take the team to a draw so I managed to do that and I'm pretty happy with that."
Wellington captain Michael Bracewell employed every player, bar wicketkeeper Tom Blundell and himself, to roll their arms but only four of them picked up a scalp each.
The Stags top-six batsmen's knocks in the second innings had an aura of responsibility and ownership about them.
No one passed the buck down the order after openers George Worker (35 runs) and captain Greg Hay (52) laid the platform for Schmulian (60), Noema-Barnett (76) and Tom Bruce (22 not out) to build on.
"Kieran is back in the side after a few years in England so ... he's been playing exceptionally well in the last two games," Cleaver said of the former CD skipper.
"Deano is starting off his career and he's done amazingly well so he's bowled superbly in his last two games," he said of You Travel Taradale CC allrounder Dean Foxcroft picking up a maiden five-wicket bag yesterday in his second first-class match.
While the result favoured the hosts, what did the Heinrich Malan-coached Stags think about a wicket that started flattening out on day three.
"They [groundsmen] were trying to produce a result, which is what you want, that is good, hard cricket and Wellington [did that] so we really had to dig deep for a draw.
"It was starting to turn a little bit today after being green early so you can't really complain about the wicket because it was the same for everyone."
Cleaver said while the 12 points for a victory went begging, CD were delighted to retain their top-rung status on the shield table.
"It's definitely a great result. You play every game to win but sometimes you have to play hard to deny other teams points."
He said the Firebirds were one of their arch rivals so no love was lost in the cricketing jungle.
Wellington, after skittling CD cheaply, amassed 429 all out in their first innings in a 133.5-over occupation of the batting crease.
CD resumed batting this morning at 184/3 from 73 overs with Cleaver and Noema-Barnett unbeaten on 22 and 7, respectively.
The Firebirds are fourth on 40 points, six below second-placed Northern Districts Knights and the Auckland Aces on 46 each with the Stags setting the pace on 57 to keep intact an unbeaten run in shield cricket dating back to October 2016.
"It's not something we've thought about because we just go out to play hard cricket and execute our game plan so we're just lucky we have some exceptional players who have created something special around us in the last couple of years," he said, adding it was the product of some passionate team work.
The Canterbury Kings are on 32 points and the Otago Volts on 10.
Cleaver said the Stags were looking forward to a timely break for Christmas before switching their mind set to the Burger King Super Smash Twenty20 mode starting on Thursday, December 27.
Having had a stint with the Malan-coached New Zealand A team, the Manawatu cricketer said he hadn't had any white-ball cricket this summer so the glitzy TV-tailored 20-over format should whet his and other players' appetites.
Cleaver said he had broadened his portfolio during the NZ A campaign and enjoyed the robust and rewarding environment.
"I learned a lot and put my best foot forward so I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and, hopefully, get more opportunities in the future."