New Zealand State Championship December 12, 2003

Canterbury in commanding position

Canterbury 337 for 5 (Papps 119, Stead 105, Penn 2-58, Walker 2-70) v Wellington

Centuries by Canterbury batsmen Michael Papps (119) and Gary Stead (105) made a mockery of Wellington's decision to field first at the Basin Reserve in the final game of round three of the State Championship.

Batting turned out to be a less hazardous occupation than Matthew Bell, Wellington's captain, anticipated. Canterbury made a fine start, putting on 146 runs before Brendon McCullum was out for 76, scored off 104 balls, in his first match for his adopted province. It also highlighted his batting potential at the top of the order and further heightened the intrigue before Sunday's announcement of New Zealand's team for the first Test against Pakistan at Hamilton. McCullum has emerged as a challenger for Robbie Hart's position as wicketkeeper in the Test side. He is already the preferred option in one-day internationals.

Papps is another who put his name in front of the selectors. He enjoyed an outstanding domestic summer last year, and put his name alongside Tim McIntosh of Auckland as a contender for a Test place, if Stephen Fleming is unable to play. He showed admirable qualities in his opening stand with McCullum, and added 168 for the fourth wicket with Stead, who had captained Canterbury before Chris Cairns usurped that role this year. Stead, who scored his ninth first-class century, was dropped on 99, and was eventually dismissed for 105, caught off Iain O'Brien's bowling by Matthew Walker.

Stead's dismissal in what was expected to be the last over of the day was exacerbated when the umpires ruled that another over was possible. Walker needed just one more ball to trap Craig McMillan lbw for 2.

Wellington's bowlers, especially during the morning session, were guilty of too much loose bowling, and in the morning session, the batsmen helped themselves to 22 boundaries. Andrew Penn came back better after lunch and dismissed both openers at a cost of 58 runs, while Walker ended the day with 2 for 70.