With 1163 runs extracted from the McLean Park wicket in the previous round, the decision to bat on winning the toss was always going to be elementary for the Plunket Shield captains when the penultimate round got under way in Napier today.

Or was it that rudimentary for Northern Districts Knights skipper Dean Brownlie when he did just that after the coin rolled his way?

"We weren't sure how it was going to turn but we were weighing it up with whether day one was going to be harder than days three and four," said Brownlie, after CD skittled the Knights for a paltry 167 runs in just 53 overs.

"We would have liked to get more runs but we still think days three and four can be very tough with the spinners so, I guess, it has yet to be seen if that was the right move or not," said the former Black Caps batsman who was born in Perth, Australia, but plays here because of his Kiwi paternal heritage.

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CD skipper Greg Hay was more blunt in his assessment: "It's certainly not a wicket that deserved to have 14 wickets taken on the first day, I don't think."

Hay, who fell victim to Mitchell Santner's arm to be run out on 52 a few overs from stumps, felt some of their batting had been indifferent.

The 34-year-old from Nelson suspected Brownlie's decision to bat first might still be right as the strip was drying out and offering spinners some turn already and had more bounce on it this morning.

However, it wasn't all doom and gloom for the Knights who had the Stags on notice on 142-4 at stumps with night watchman Ajaz Patel and No 5 Dane Cleaver to resume on 12 and seven runs, respectively, tomorrow morning.

Some overs will be lost in the next two days with rain forecast until midday before clearing for the rest of the day.

Brownlie said the Knights were mindful it was a used wicket from the previous round and, consequently, the spinners were going to profit.

"The toss was one of those kinds that you want to lose but we know that if it is going to turn then Ish is going to find it," he said, of ND who have Black Cap tweakers in Sodhi and Santner, who had their teammates clapping amid oohs and aahs before stumps.

So were the CD bowlers that good or did the ND batsmen fail to apply themselves better on the wicket, Brownlie?

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"It's a little bit of both," said the 34-year-old at first drop after he heard the death rattle from Ryan McCone for 13 runs. "They bowled in good areas and made us play, which is good on day one, and then there are a few of us who got ourselves out."

Several batsmen raised hopes of scoring at least a half century, if not a ton, but it wasn't to be for ND.

Black Cap Scott Kuggeleijn, at No 8, top scored with 37 runs and opener Henry Cooper was the next best one run behind. Another Black Cap, Daryl Mitchell, was the only other batsman worthy of a mention on 26 runs at No 6 so it didn't come as a surprise the Knights weren't due for any bonus points.

Not so the Stags bowlers, claiming four which will all add up to bolster their 12-point buffer as the Auckland Aces and the Canterbury Kings nip at their heels.

Just as it was in the previous in the don't-argue victory over the Otago Volts at the same venue, the CD bowlers operated like a shearing gang.

Black Caps test spinner Patel claimed 3-26 from six overs, including a maiden, on a wicket that was only 27 overs old when he had Black Caps wicketkeeper Tim Seifert caught and bowled for 10 runs.

However, new-ball seamer Doug Bracewell, McCone and fellow first-change merchant Blair Tickner claimed 2-31, 2-42 and 2-33, respectively, although opener Seth Rance took 1-34 from 11 overs, including two maidens, at the second-best economy rate of 3.09 runs an over. Bracewell was the most frugal at 2.07 from 15 overs, including four maidens.

ND batsman Joe Carter faces CD seamer Ryan McCone on day one of the penultimate Plunket Shield match at McLean Park, Napier, today. Photo/Duncan Brown
ND batsman Joe Carter faces CD seamer Ryan McCone on day one of the penultimate Plunket Shield match at McLean Park, Napier, today. Photo/Duncan Brown

Bar McCone, justifying his inclusion after carrying the drinks in the previous round, all the other seamers are Black Caps and coach Heinrich Malan and his assistant, Aldin Smith, wouldn't have expected anything less from their bowling attack.

"The bowlers have done a fantastic job but, ideally, we would have wanted to be two down [as batsmen] rather than four, with myself involved in a run out which should never be acceptable in four-day cricket so we've sort of let them off the hook when we should have buried them," he said, emphasising they needed to focus in eclipsing ND's total with a 25-runs deficit tomorrow.

Black Caps opening batsman George Worker was the only early wobble and will chastise himself for departing for a first-ball duck after hitting the ball down the throat of Brett Hampton from a Kuggeleijn scorcher.

Nevertheless opener Hay and Ben Smith, at first drop after incumbent William Young remained with the New Zealand team at the Basin Reserve for the third test yet to start after two days of rain, applied themselves before Smith had a rush of blood, trying to slog the ball off his pads down square leg while retreating towards the stumps, as Sodhi trapped him plumb leg before wicket for 34 runs.

No 4 Tom Bruce scored 26 before feathering one to wicketkeeper Seifert from a Kuggeleijn delivery.

Brownlie said CD were marginally ahead in proceedings but ND intended to take some scalps early tomorrow in the hope of restricting them to an under-100 runs lead.

Kuggeleijn and Sodhi are spearheading the ND bowling attack with 2-48 and 1-40, respectively.