The Plunket Shield match between Canterbury and Auckland was abandoned on the third day with the pitch in Rangiora ruled unsafe for batsmen.

Auckland were 66 for 6, trailing by 419 runs, before umpires Ash Mehrotra and John Dempsey decided to call the match off.

Just four balls before play was abandoned, Auckland's Matt McEwan was struck on the helmet by a Will Williams delivery after the ball "reared badly". McEwan was dismissed shortly after and the game abandoned two balls later.

"The umpires were of the view that the pitch was not safe and fit for play; that the players' welfare was the number one priority and, accordingly, abandoned play," said NZC's general manager of domestic cricket Andrew Rogers.

Earlier, Canterbury had posted 485 for 6 before declaring, with Ken McClure and Cam Fletcher scoring 210 and an unbeaten 100 respectively. According to match referee Gary Baxter, there were worrying signs about the pitch even during their innings.

''Right from the start the occasional ball would rear off a length which was unplayable," Baxter told the New Zealand Herald. "While Canterbury batted through the better part of the pitch conditions, one or two of their batsmen were struck."

''Auckland were struggling to get it off the block. The occasional one would come through head high, then would shoot through low. A couple of their players had been struck. This morning a ball reared badly and hit (Auckland batsman) Matt McEwan on the helmet.''

However, Canterbury have claimed Auckland deliberately batted negatively as they were unsatisfied with the pitch.

"I think their mindset was perhaps somewhat negative and they were just waiting for the game to be abandoned," Canterbury assistant coach Brendon Donkers told stuff.co.nz. "They tried to make a point they weren't happy with the wicket. They reflected that through the way they batted.

"It's been disappointing how they've gone about it on [Monday] as well. It's not how cricket should be played."