ND stay top despite loss to Wellington
Northern Districts (ND) held on to top spot, despite a 38-run defeat to Wellington in the lone third-round result of the Plunket Shield in Hamilton. ND's hopes of a third straight win were dashed by a tremendous fightback orchestrated by Luke Woodcock and Joe Austin-Smellie who struck nineties to rescue Wellington from 33 for 5 in their second innings. Their seventh-wicket stand of 129 was instrumental in setting ND 287 to win, which they failed to overhaul on the last day. Bradley-John Watling's fighting 90 was not supported by the rest of the line-up, which crumbled in the face of incisive bowling from Jeetan Patel and Dewayne Bowden.
Victory would have been the last thing on Wellington's mind when Tim Southee wrecked their first innings, finishing with extraordinary figures of 25-12-27-8. However, Cameron Merchant, Josh Brodie and Woodcock scored useful fifties to take Wellington to a respectable 263. ND were in early trouble against Andy McKay's left-arm pace before Peter McGlashan and Joseph Yovich scored eighties to secure a lead, while Jeetan Patel accounted for the tail. Brent Arnel took over the responsibility of tormenting Wellington in the second innings, picking four of the first five wickets to fall before Woodcock and Austin-Smellie began the turnaround. Arnel completed his five-for, dismissing Austin-Smellie three short of a 100, but not before Wellington had managed a winning score.
Opening bowlers Ewen Thompson and Michael Mason raised hopes of a spectacular come-from-behind victory for Central Districts (CD) before Otago held on for a draw in Napier. Otago would not have expected to bat again after piling on 534 in their first innings and then inflicting the follow-on. Otago's effort was driven by a partnership of 206 between Shaun Haig and Neil Broom for the fourth wicket. Haig was dismissed for 153, before Broom fell four short of a double hundred. Thompson's five-wicket haul was the lone bright spot for CD whose meek first-innings response would have been disastrous if not for a belligerent 71 from tailender Seth Rance that took them to 190. Medium-pacer Sam Wells claimed a five-for to put Otago in sight of an innings victory, before CD rose from the ashes.
Their second-innings revival was anchored by opener Peter Ingram's 135, and supported by handy contributions from Timothy Weston, Brad Patton and Bevan Griggs. CD went on to avoid an innings defeat and finished 173 runs ahead. Otago then survived some anxious moments against Thompson and Mason, losing wickets at regular intervals - eight in all - before the lack of time robbed the game of a decisive result.
Meanwhile, Canterbury and Auckland played out a less dramatic draw in Christchurch. Hundreds for Michael Papps, Johann Myburgh and Chris Harris ensured that Canterbury piled up 540 in their first innings. Auckland's reply was based on a 100-run third-wicket stand between Ravi Bopara and Scott Styris. Styris went on to make three figures, while Bopara missed out by ten runs. In an effort to make a game out of it, Auckland declared their first innings despite being 148 runs in arrears with three wickets remaining. Canterbury responded with 133 for 1 before declaring, setting Auckland a sporting target of 282 on the last day. Auckland began positively, with openers Richard Jones and Bopara adding 77 in quick time, but switched into a safety-first mode after losing four wickets for 17 runs. Styris and Reece Young ensured there were no more jitters, taking them to 160 before play was called off.