Okay, laugh all you want but it was far more intriguing than the Black Caps v Bangladesh test in Wellington today.

It was a case of numerous dots and simply waiting for a single run or wicket to break the monotony as the Central Districts Stags chased victory on day three of the four-day Plunket Shield match in Napier.

The CD artillery, in the form of William Young, was back from the Basin Reserve at first drop at the expense of Ben Smith, against the Northern Districts Knights.

All Stags skipper Greg Hay and his troops needed to do was chase down 174 runs in their second dig and, mercifully, they did by a solitary wicket after the white coats allowed for an extra half hour's play to eke out a result.


Easier said than done. Any other day that target would have been a dwaddle at McLean Park but not this time, for the sides stacked with Black Caps who are surplus to requirements of New Zealand coach Gary Stead for the Bangladesh tour.

As ND captain Dean Brownlie had forecast, Black Caps spinners Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner were going to take ownership when the wicket, which had yielded 1163 runs in the game against the Otago Volts in the previous round, would take more turn on days three and four.

"It was very, very tough to watch for everyone of us who had to bat so it was like a really collective effort to get over the line," said tail-order batsman Ryan McCone, stumped for one run off a Sodhi delivery.

When the stock taking was done today, with a day's play in hand, the sides had eked out 779 runs at the cost of 39 wickets to put all the bowlers' input in perspective on a traditionally batsmen's paradise.

Sodhi's 14th first-class, five-wicket bag lent credence to Brownlie's assertion as he and Santner again claimed seven wickets between them to match their first-innings effort. Strike bowler Scott Kuggeleijn also claimed two in each bowling dig to break that monotony of drift and prodigious turn.

It must have felt like extracting a molar for those fans who were glued to their live internet scoreboards, at work or due to other pressing commitments, especially when CD needed 30-odd runs with four wickets in hand.

It didn't help that Ajaz Patel, adding 42 runs as night watchman in the first innings, departed on a soft dismissal to Sodhi for four runs from a delivery that climbed on him like a yelping pet dog happy to see its owner return home after an arduous day at work.

No 8 Doug Bracewell, unbeaten on 17 runs, and No 11 Blair Tickner, one not out, saw the defending champions match the target from 72.1 overs.


"Doug hit a huge six over extra cover to break their back in the chase and then Ticks [Tickner] - it was pretty special for him to get the winning runs because he was very cool, calm and collected before he went out there to bat so I'm very pleased for him," said McCone.

Black Caps seamer Doug Bracewell does what he does best but that's debatable because he went on to ensure the CD Stags got over the line against ND in Napier today. Photo/Paul Taylor
Black Caps seamer Doug Bracewell does what he does best but that's debatable because he went on to ensure the CD Stags got over the line against ND in Napier today. Photo/Paul Taylor

No doubt, the consistent starts from Hay, who scored 59 runs after 52 in the first innings, was crucial with fellow opener George Worker's 26 today.

But, then again, you cannot disregard No 9 Seth Rance who strode to the crease, faced nine balls to score 16 runs, including one boundary and two lusty sixes off the spinners. The Black Cap swing merchant, who used to keep wickets and open batting in his age-group teenage years at Wairarapa, didn't flinch.

"It's probably one of the toughest surfaces to play on in New Zealand, just the way it was turning [so] everyone throughout the match found it very difficult to bat on.

"In a way every ball had someone's name written on it so ... it took everyone of us to get over the line," said McCone of a venue where CD have not lost since February 2016, ironically, heavily to ND.

A loss would have left some sort of mental scarring had CD lost, heading into the final round against the same opposition at Seddon Park, Hamilton, from this Sunday.

The Heinrich Malan-coached side had skittled the Knights for 222 with second-change seamer Ryan McCone breaking up the overnight stand between Daryl Mitchell and Mitchell Santner to finish with his third first-class, five-wicket bag but maiden one for CD (two with the Canterbury Kings).

In some respects McCone's ascendancy was at odds with a tweaker-friendly pitch, just as it didn't matter how much one's crunches numbers one thing is hard to ignore.

Black Caps seamers Blair Tickner (left) and Seth Rance try to figure out the wicket before starring on it with the bat today. Photo/Paul Taylor
Black Caps seamers Blair Tickner (left) and Seth Rance try to figure out the wicket before starring on it with the bat today. Photo/Paul Taylor

Where statistics defies logic only intangible things make sense - the Stags' resilience and mental fortitude to again eke out a victory when it was pivotal.

"It's really pleasing to contribute because it's a very important game for the lads," said the 31-year-old left-arm medium pacer who had claimed four scalps in CD's loss to the Kings in Rangiora two rounds ago but found himself lugging the drinks against the Volts after that.

"I'm just stoked I can do my part to help us get over the line so it's very pleasing," said a humble McCone who reiterated he was simply happy to fulfil the portfolio in CD's reservoir of teeming talent any time the need arose, after claiming 5-47 in the second innings.

After all, as perplexing as it may sound, the bowlers delivered in the match with 40 wickets and all the batsmen had to do, it seemed, was to hang around.

The proof was in the balls faced — the Knights made up for a meagre 56 overs in the first innings but backed it up with 102.4 in the second dig.

That was the going rate. The Stags managed 67.5 in the first for a batting bonus point, which was hard to come by.

CD will enjoy the extra day's rest now and await the outcome of the Canterbury Kings v Auckland Aces match at Rangiora on the final day today to know if they have successfully retained the shield regardless of the rematch against the Knights.

"I think we have a healthy lead but I don't think we've got it wrapped up, by any means so we'll have to sit on the result of that game," said McCone as the Aces require 271 runs to win with eight wickets intact and 96 overs remaining.

Whoever said domestic red-ball is boring doesn't know what they're talking about.