Otago chased down 256 in 38.3 overs to pull off a four-wicket win against Auckland on the final day in Dunedin. The win saw Otago jump to second place with 71 points, only one ahead of Auckland and Northern Districts but they remain with a net run rate of -3.493.
Auckland, who finished the third day on 154 for 3, with a lead of 129, were bundled out for 280, setting Otago a target of 256. Even as legspinner Tarun Nethula gave Auckland some hope when he picked Otago's top four during the chase, Derek de Boorder (36* off 29) and Neil Wagner finished off the chase. Otago saw a strong opening stand of 63 from Aaron Redmond (26) and Hamish Rutherford (74 off 45) before Nathula struck. The following two batsmen, Michael Bracewell (45) and Ryan Duffy (57) also scored briskly to keep their team on top. Despite losing a couple of more wickets, de Boorder's rapid innings saw them through.
Having been put in, Auckland made 335 in their first innings, riding mainly on their middle and lower-order partnerships. Robert O'Donnell's 182-ball 59 and Brad Cachopa's 71 were part of a 115-run stand for the fifth wicket after Michael Rae had sent the openers back by the 26th over. Dean Bartlett made 34 off 70 deliveries to put on 55 runs for the ninth wicket and 49 for the last wicket with Nethula and Mark Quinn. Duffy, Jesse Ryder and Rae picked two wickets each.
Michael Bates jolted Otago when he removed Redmond on the second ball of the innings and then got rid of Rutherford in the third over, leaving the home team at 26 for 2. Otago's middle order contributed well, starting off with a 143-run partnership for the third wicket between Bracewell and Ryan Duffy. Bracewell struck 14 fours on his way to 126, his seventh first-class ton. Otago declared on 360 for 8 in 89.4 overs, gaining a slender 25-run lead. Bates picked up three wickets in his 18 overs.
Auckland's second innings got off to a slow start and suffered a setback when Rob Nicol retired hurt in the 17th over. Even as Donovan Grobbelaar stuck in with a 116-ball 29, Jacob Duffy ran through their line-up picking up 5 for 57, to take his overall figures to 7 for 126, his best innings and match figures. Opener Anaru Kitchen (63) and Brad Cachopa (60) were the top two scores for the visitors, but Jacob Duffy's wickets on the last day turned the match in Otago's favour.
Canterbury continued their run at the top of the league by handing Northern Districts a massive 301-run defeat at the Hagley Oval. Canterbury, the defending champions, had closed in on the win on the third day itself by reducing Northern Districts to 48 for 5. By dismissing them for 184, Canterbury collected 19 points and strengthened their chances of defending the title.
After losing BJ Watling in the third over of the day, Mitchell Santner and Daniel Flynn resisted with a stand of 107 for the seventh wicket. Santner's 55 and Flynn's 62 took the score past 150 as they struck 20 fours in all. Legspinner Todd Astle broke the stand and took the remaining two wickets too, to finish with 3 for 22, to wrap up the win. Astle finished with six wickets in the match, while Matt Henry picked up seven.
Earlier, Canterbury, asked to bat, scored a strong 381 with fifties from Leo Carter (81), Neil Broom (76) and Henry Nicholls (57), and other useful contributions. Pacer James Baker finished with 5 for 90, while Graeme Aldridge took 3 for 84.
Three wickets from Henry and two from Ed Nuttall rattled Norther Districts, leaving them on 56 for 5, which put the match in Canterbury's favour early. Lower-order contributions from Watling (63), Santner (32), Scott Kuggeleijn (23) and Ish Sodhi (48) saved them from a collapse but they were eventually bowled out for 234 as Astle also picked up three wickets.
With a lead of 147, Canterbury set a steep target of 486 on the back of Peter Fulton's unbeaten 123, his 17th first-class hundred, which also made him the leading run-scorer in the league. The top three batsmen put on 67 runs together, before Fulton struck nine fours and a six in his hundred and led them to 338 for 6, along with fifties from Nicholls (61) and Andrew Ellis (58). Baker took four more wickets to end with nine in all.
In the last 19 overs of the third day, Nuttall and Henry troubled Northern Districts again, taking five wickets together. Henry picked up one more on the last day to end with 4 for 29, before Astle took the rest to complete the win.
"It's probably one of the most complete performances we've had in the last few years, to be honest," Fulton said. "Mainly because of the team we're up against, Northern Districts, who we've got a lot of respect for and who have got a pretty experienced line-up.