Hay and Diamanti tons force draw
Greg Hay and Brendon Diamanti scored valuable second-innings hundreds for Central Districts to ensure a draw against Canterbury at Rangiora.
Central Districts were struggling to stay in the game after conceding a first-innings lead of 280 and were heading towards defeat after being reduced to 119 for 4 and 263 for 6 following-on. However, Diamanti and Hay combined to add 205 runs for the seventh wicket and remained unbeaten on 135 and 131 respectively. Central Districts finally declared on 468 for 6, setting Canterbury a target of 189. Canterbury's top-order failed in the final innings and the match ended with them on 19 for 3 on the final day.
However, it was the top order that had given Canterbury a strong grip on the match. Three out of the top four batsmen scored centuries as they piled up 543 in the first innings. Michael Papps and Johann Myburgh scored 127 and 107 respectively while Canterbury's Indian import Rahul Dravid contributed 102, gaining valuable practice ahead of the Tests against New Zealand. There was nearly a fourth century in the innings but Kruger van Wyk fell on 92. He was the first of Indian legspinner Amit Mishra's three wickets. Diamanti was impressive with the ball for Central Districts, dismissing five top-order batsmen for 74 runs.
Five of the top six Central Districts batsmen got steady starts in the first innings but none of them went on to score hundreds. Andrew Ellis, who finished with 4 for 39, chipped away at the top order to dismiss Central Districts for 263. Facing a deficit of 280, they were in danger of defeat before Diamanti and Hay performed an impressive rescue act.
Auckland's bowlers struck at regular intervals to clinch a 22-run victory in a close contest against Northern Districts at Whangarei. Chasing 269 for victory, Northern Districts began the final day on 113 for 3 but were dismissed for 246. They began the day poorly, with Hamish Marshall falling almost immediately. Wickets continued to fall frequently thereafter. Colin de Grandhomme took 3 for 40, accounting for the lower-order. Joseph Yovich (41) and Te Ahu Davis (30 off 26 balls) gave Northern Districts hope but were unable to finish the job.
There was little to separate the teams on the first three days. Auckland were in trouble in their first innings, losing their first three wickets for 16 after choosing to bat. However the middle order rallied - Scott Styris scored 95 and Grandhomme 63 - to lead Auckland to 277.
Northern Districts also struggled in their first innings. They were 65 for 3 at one stage and were also rescued by two half-centurions. Opener Brad Wilson scored 62 and Michael Parlane made 75 in the middle order to limit the damage caused by Daryl Tuffey (3 for 45) and legspinner Tarun Nethula, who took 4 for 72. Thanks to their efforts Northern Districts trailed by only nine runs on first innings.
Auckland were in tatters in their second innings at 134 for 8, leading by only 125. Debutant offspinner Jonothon Boult was the wrecker-in-chief with 4 for 78. But Northern Districts were thwarted by Gareth Hopkins, who scored 100 off 149 balls. He was supported by Tuffey who contributed 53 to a 106-run partnership for the ninth wicket. They took Auckland to 259, helping set a target that was 22 runs too many for Northern Districts.
Wellington were 39 runs short of their target and had four wickets in hand when their match against Otago ended in a draw in Dunedin.
Both teams put in much-improved performances in the second innings after collapsing in their first. Having been asked to bat, Otago were dismissed for 174 with Warren McSkimming's 39 being the highest score. Michael Burns (4 for 41) and Dewayne Bowden (3 for 40) were Wellington's best bowlers.
Wellington fared worse in their reply. McSkimming picked up 4 for 40 and Wellington were skittled for 139, conceding a first-innings lead of 35 to Otago. Greg Todd led a more solid performance from Otago in the second innings. He scored 73 and Indian batsman VVS Laxman made 44 as Otago steadily built an advantage. However Luke Woodcock picked up three vital top-order wickets and the rest of the batsmen failed to convert their starts. Otago were eventually dismissed for 286, setting Wellington a target of 322, the highest total of the match.
Wellington lost two early wickets an were 42 for 2 in the chase before the middle-order batsmen weighed in with solid contributions. Neal Parlane made 59, BJ Crook scored an unbeaten 101, and Woodcock contributed 69 as Wellington pushed towards the target. However, they were running short of time and their challenge suffered when Woodcock cut through the batting order to reduce Wellington from 237 for 3 to 259 for 6.