Close wins for Canterbury and Auckland
Canterbury moved up to third place in the Plunket Shield table, beating Wellington by 76 runs in a closely-fought game at the Manipower Oval in Rangiora. A five-wicket haul from left-arm seamer Andy McKay helped bowl out Canterbury for 162 on the first day. Half-centuries from Wellington captain Grant Elliott and then Jeetan Patel lower down the order gave Wellington a handy 85-run lead though Canterbury did well to fight back with legspinner Todd Astle taking five wickets.
Canterbury batted more spiritedly in their second innings, overcoming a poor start by way of a 167-run fifth-wicket stand between Shanan Stewart and Reece Young. Stewart made 99 while McKay backed up his first-innings performance with a four-for. Canterbury managed 339, a lead of 254, and Wellington faced a challenging chase. The way the openers Stephen Murdoch and Cameron Merchant were going, adding 105, it seemed Wellington would ease to victory. But Matthew Henry starred on debut, triggering a collapse and grabbing a five-for. Nine wickets fell for 73 and Wellington, who are now second from bottom, fell 76 short.
Auckland and Northern Districts served up a thriller at Seddon Park in Hamilton, one in which Auckland held their nerve to seal their first win of the tournament. Auckland batted first and, thanks to a lower-order revival, led by Michael Bates and Bruce Martin, reached 228. Bates, in a fine all-round performance, combined with Chris Martin to limit the lead to 63. He picked up five wickets, Chris Martin took four, but fifties from Brad Wilson and Peter McGlashan ensured the advantage remained with ND.
A collective bowling display led by seamer Trent Boult who took four wickets pegged back Auckland further. Gareth Hopkins resisted with 85, and was supported by useful contributions from Anaru Kitchen, Bradley Cachopa and Daryl Tuffey. But a target of 197 didn't seem sufficient. No one told the Auckland bowlers that, as Chris Martin again stepped up, taking a five-for to finish with nine in the match. The ND batsmen would regret not capitalising on starts. The last three wickets fell for just two runs and ND capitulated to 178, losing by 18 runs.
Rain ruined what was shaping up to be an exciting game at the University Oval in Dunedin, between Otago and Central Districts. Kieran Noema-Barnett grabbed four wickets to bowl out Otago for 147 and a lower-order led effort steered CD to a 75-run lead. Kruger van Wyk and Tarun Nethula struck half-centuries to give CD the edge. However, Otago replied strongly in the second innings, and were at 113 for 2 at the end of the third day. Rain, which had washed out the second day, returned to haunt the fourth as well.