Canterbury loss sets up exciting last round
Canterbury fluffed the chance to seal the Plunket Shield with one round of fixtures to spare, as they failed to defend 346 against Central Districts, succumbing to a four-wicket defeat in Nelson.
An outright win would have wrapped up the title for Canterbury, and Peter Fulton appeared to set them on course with a first-innings hundred, taking them to 388. Adam Milne took 3 for 36 for Central Districts, his first wickets since his return from injury, in the third match of his comeback. Central Districts batsman Will Young then responded with a hundred of his own, making it his second consecutive Plunket shield century. However, only one other player - George Worker with 72 - managed over 40 and Central Districts were bowled out for 315, trailing by 73, with Ed Nuttall starring with the ball taking 4 for 49.
Cole McConchie followed up his 70 from the first innings with 131 in the second, and Canterbury declared at 273 for 8, meaning they needed to bowl the opposition out for under 346 to secure the Plunket Shield. But contributions from a number of Central Districts batsmen, led by a sedate 109 from Jesse Ryder, thwarted Canterbury as they slumped to a four-wicket defeat, taking the three-way race to the title to the final round of matches.
Northern Districts, the third team in the title race, kept their hopes alive with a nine-wicket victory over Wellington in Mount Maunganui. They were in control from the start, as a five-for from offspinner Joe Walker skittled Wellington for 151, with Fraser Colson (66) the only one offering meaningful resistance. Peter Younghusband's five-for meant Northern Districts could muster only 262, with eight of the eleven batsmen reaching double figures, and take a 111-run lead.
Wellington opener Michael Papps was the only one who ensured his bowlers would have something to bowl at, scoring 160 off his side's 269 runs, including an 89-run tenth-wicket partnership that set Northern Districts a target of 159. However, it was a target that never troubled them despite the early loss of Henry Cooper as unbeaten half centuries from Dean Brownlie (76) and Bharat Popli (75) took Northern Districts home by nine wickets to set up a grandstand finish to the Plunket Shield.
Colin Munro's rich form since being dropped from the New Zealand ODI squad continued as his third first-class hundred in as many games took Auckland to an eight-wicket victory over Otago in the Plunket Shield.
After being put in to bat, Otago's innings was a tale of several players getting starts with no one able to kick on. Five of their top seven batsmen were dismissed between 31 and 50 as the innings was wrapped up for 282. Auckland fast bowler Lockie Ferguson was the most successful, picking up five wickets in the innings and eight in the match.
It was a delicately poised game for the first two innings, with Munro's century helping Auckland to a 22-run lead, but a disastrous morning session on the third day for Otago had them slipping to 59 for 7. Anaru Kitchen rescued his side from falling for an embarrassingly low total with an explosive 101-ball 108, which pushed Otago to 205 and set Auckland a target of 184 for victory.
Auckland made light work of what could have been a tricky chase with openers Michael Guptill-Bunce and Robert O'Donnell putting on a 61-run partnership at more than five an over. After their departure, Glenn Phillips (59 off 43) and Rob Nicol raced to victory with an unbeaten 96-run partnership in 12.2 overs and finished the match with a day to spare.