Was it because the Central Districts Stags were shy with the bat in their two innings in Rangiora, near Christchurch?

Perhaps it was because the Greg Hay-captained Stags bowlers eased their foot on the throat of the Canterbury Kings in the hosts' first innings of the four-day Plunket Shield match.

Either way, the visitors agonisingly lost by two wickets today to end their magical 21 victories on the trot (three shy of equalling the national record) and also their top perch on the table, by two points, to the victorious Auckland Aces, who beat the Otago Volts, in their campaign to defend the shield.

"Yes, it's disappointing to come up short like that after coming so close," said third-change seamer Ryan McCone who claimed a career-best 4-25 for CD, from 9.5 overs, including four maidens, eclipsing the 3-40 against the Volts early this summer.

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"At the end of the day that's cricket and that happens but we took it pretty close," said McCone who came in as a second-change bowler in the first bowling innings to claim 2-55. His overall career best is 5-46 for Canterbury.

The Christchurch-born left-armer, who secured a CD contract in 2018-19, agreed the Stags could have been more clinical with both the bat and ball after CD won the toss and were skittled for 261 runs before managing 226 all out for lunch today.

In reply, the Kings took more overs in their first dig for a match-defining 280 runs all out before overhauling the target, albeit it with a few speed wobbles along the way, with 208-8 today.

"Obviously we would have liked more runs at the end," McCone said. "But, to be fair, when we bowled to them in the first innings we took them to the sword to have them six down [for 150] so we had that opportunity," said the bloke who, in making his domestic debut in 2009, became the first debutant to score a century at No 9.

At tea, after 28 overs, Canterbury needed 75 runs to win with six wickets in hand in their second-innings target of 208, after the 31-year-old trapped seasoned campaigner Stephen Murdoch leg before wicket for 47 runs. However, it wasn't before former Wellington Firebirds batsman Murdoch had posted 5000 shield runs on reaching 20.

McCone then went on to strike two quick blows in the 31st over, removing Leo Carter for 44 runs before conceding a boundary to Black Cap Todd Astle in the ensuing ball before unsettling his furniture for one run in the very next delivery with an aeroplane-soaring celebration.

The dreaded dot balls began to surface soon after as 64 runs at half a run an over must have started looking like a highway project for the hosts with four wickets in hand.

Asked what worked for him today, McCone said there was a bit of variation in the wicket from cracks which offered some purchase when he bent his back to hit the strip hard.

"I was hoping to put the ball in the right areas so it was going to create chances which I managed to do a couple of times but to get that agonisingly close like that is a gutted feeling," he said, revealing it was a ground and wicket he was pretty familiar with having played many matches growing up there.

McCone was delighted to receive as many overs as he did in the game on the account of the number of world-class bowlers in the CD ranks.

"I know it's going to be according to what's needed on the day so I've played enough cricket now to be comfortable in doing whatever's needed for the team any time.

"Obviously with the calibre of bowling we have I didn't know when I was going to be needed or for how long so I'm always comfortable with that with the Stags."

Black Caps opener George Worker took on board CD coach Heinrich Malan's advice to play a game of patience in the second innings today but it wasn't enough. Photo/file
Black Caps opener George Worker took on board CD coach Heinrich Malan's advice to play a game of patience in the second innings today but it wasn't enough. Photo/file

Earlier, after CD coach Heinrich Malan had reinforced the need to play a game of patience in forging partnerships at stumps yesterday, left-handed opener George Worker appeared to have taken the advice in his stride with a top second-dig score of 83 runs for CD from 156 balls, including eight fours.

With fellow opener Hay making a pair at stumps on day two, it looked a little dicey when William Young, at first drop, and No 4 Tom Bruce contributed 20 runs and one, respectively, for the Burger King Super Smash champions who came straight off a rich Twenty20 diet of white-ball cricket to the red-ball one.

Wicketkeeper Dane Cleaver walked the talk at No 5 with 63 runs from 145 balls, including nine boundaries, two shy of his first-innings score. No 6 Bracewell started well with 21 runs from 41 deliveries but didn't go on. The rest of the batsmen came and went for parking meter money with No 9 McCone unbeaten on nine runs.

For the Cantabrians, who have not lost a first-class match at Mainpower Oval since December 2015, Black Caps spinner Astle became the leading wicket taker for Canterbury in the format when he dismissed Dean Foxcroft in the second innings to surpass the record 290 scalps of former New Zealand international Mark Priest to finish with 292.

Cole McConchie also took a career-best 4-46 from the previous best of 2-32.

McCone said the Stags would undergo a debriefing tonight and then move on.

"We still have a shield to win and nothing's changed in that respect."


Interim points: Auckland Aces 65 (+19), CD Stags 63 (+6), Canterbury Kings 50 (+18), ND Knights 46 (match in progress), Wellington Firebirds 40 (match in progress), Otago Volts 14 (+4).