As highway projects go, you can say the Central Districts Stags batsmen have done a superb job of laying down a solid foundation against the Otago Volts in Napier today.
George Worker (110 runs), captain Greg Hay (158), William Young (150) and wicketkeeper Dane Cleaver (83) have embedded the metal skeleton on the resurfaced McLean Park prime real estate, declaring their intentions at 584-8 in 145.1 overs.
However, those running riot over the hand-finished highway know only too well if they can enjoy the ride so too can the Volts when day three resumes in round six of the Plunket Shield match tomorrow. The Southerners were 120-3 from 44 overs at stumps today.
But every job worth doing is worth doing right and when that is the case it can be enthralling to watch CD trying to regain their top-rung perch which they forfeited to the Auckland Aces by two points in the previous-round, two-wicket loss to the Canterbury Kings — their first in 21 matches.
That marvel of modern engineering, based on ancient principles, belongs to the international class of bowlers in Ben Wheeler, Seth Rance, Ajaz Patel, Blair Tickner and Doug Bracewell who will do more than just slather asphalt, as it were.
Tickner, at first change, had 2-18 in removing seasoned opener Hamish Rutherford (30 runs) and Cam Hawkins (29), and new-ball swing merchant Rance 1-27.
That, of course, doesn't mean the others didn't contribute as former Stag Mitch Renwick and Josh Finnie resume on 28 and nine runs at Nos 4 and 5, respectively, tomorrow.
Far from it. Wheeler matched Tickner in the economy rate of 2.57 runs an over while Patel was the most frugal at 2.07 and Bracewell also helped tightened the screws despite remaining wicket less.
"We've obviously got Ajaz, who has come back from the Black Caps as an international spinner, and the four seamers we've got have all played international cricket as well," said Young after bringing up his seventh first-class century on the heels of Worker's eighth and Hay's 13th ton.
In analysing the variables of the McLean Park wicket, the 26-year-old former skipper juxtaposed it with a "normal New Zealand" one where it offered a greenish tinge to bowl first on before it "panned out later".
"The wicket we have been presented in this game is one where you win the toss and bat first and then hope it breaks up to, hopefully, take some spin but it becomes pretty up and down vertically as the games on."
Having banked on that, CD had posted a bullish total and with six sessions left to play they need to extract 17 wickets to claim the maximum points.
"We've certainly got the calibre of bowlers to take 20 wickets so it's just a matter of going out there to get the job done," Young said.
He was banking on the Bay sun to beat down for the next two days to start baking the strip a little bit because the aridity setting in would give the ball more prodigious turn.
"Hopefully some cracks will open up, which will make the ball variable vertically," said Young who carved up his milestone runs from 208 deliveries, including 29 boundaries, in his 326-minute occupation of the crease.
No doubt, akin to Worker and Hay, he was disappointed to sacrifice his wicket when he did.
"I feel there were more runs out there for me but that's a typical greedy batsman talking now," Young said with a grin. "But, look, it's nice to have another hundred under the belt and make the conversion rate a little bit better."
Cleaver also would have been gutted to not convert his almost run-a-ball innings to a ton from 81 deliveries, including eight fours and two sixes.
"We've got the job done as a team but, individually, we could have perhaps been a little hungrier to go for a double hundred or a hundred in Dane's case."
He said it had been a good summer with the bat and he was relishing the opportunity to return to play for CD after missing out on the four-dayers at the start of the season due to New Zealand A commitments.
Asked if it was frustrating to be called up as Black Caps cover to make his debut only to return to the Stags fold, the cricketer from Taranaki but living in Napier said if anything it was extra motivation to perform even better.
"You're looked after pretty well," he said. "You travel around a little bit but it's fun to do that and you start from the day, enjoy the batting and the team of players so you forget about the rest of the sort of stuff."
Primarily Young said the uplifting thing was when released from test obligations he was able to return to play domestic cricket.
"The last thing you would want is two weeks on the drinks so it's nice to come back to play for the Stags," said the former New Zealand Under-19 World Cup captain.