Wellington made hard work of it on the first day of the match they must win outright to have any chance of overhauling Auckland in the provincial championship race.

Batting first against Otago at Molyneux Park in Alexandra, Wellington struggled to reach 201 for nine at stumps after 100 overs of tight bowling.

In-form Richard Jones gave Wellington some hope at the top of the innings but the visitors were unable to establish a really big partnership.

At 68 for five, their chances of getting up to take the points they need to wrest the State Championship from Auckland looked slim.

Only a mid-innings fightback from James Franklin (46) and Chris Nevin (50) prevented total collapse.

Shayne O'Connor continued his good season with four for 35 from 25 overs while all the other Otago bowlers were miserly as they restricted Wellington to just two runs an over.

In Napier, opener Jamie How's second successive century propelled Central Districts into a strong position against Canterbury.

After scoring his maiden first-class hundred against Northern Districts at Hamilton last Friday, the Manawatu batsman maintained his form with an equally impressive 158 on McLean Park.

How and opening partner Peter Ingram, who contributed 84, got Central Districts off to a great start with a partnership of 178 on the way to Central Districts reaching 316 for four from 104 overs by stumps.

How, who hit 19 boundaries in his 5- 1/2 hour innings, and Ingram took the score through to 112 at lunch.

After Ingram's dismissal, skipper Craig Spearman kept up the pace with a 31-ball cameo for 28.

Central Districts were looking at a total close to 400 at stumps but the demise of Spearman and the arrival of Greg Todd changed the momentum of the game.

Todd, who posted a career-best 61 not out in a match-winning partnership with How against Northern Districts, scored just 25 from 92 balls and fellow left-hander Glen Sulzberger was even more painstaking with 10 from 53 balls.